It can be said that within the scope of JFRD's emergency response, both the motor vehicle Mass Casualty Incident and the Second Alarm structure fire represent noteworthy events that, while relatively infrequent in occurrence, are guaranteed to attract attention and garner significant local media coverage just as soon as these incidents happen: no matter how dramatically compelling the specific dimensions may or, may not, actually be. As such, the month of November began in resounding fashion.
On Friday, 7 November at approximately 9 AM, twelve Oakleaf Junior High School students required transport to area hospitals when their school bus was rear-ended in an accident off Cheswick Oak Avenue near Argyle Forest Boulevard. In all, 29 students were aboard the bus and, thankfully, all of the patients of this Level 2 MCI sustained only minor bumps and bruises. Neither driver was hurt. Then, on Veteran's Day the 11th of November, units responded to a residential structure fire in the 1900 block of Phoenix Avenue at about 10:30 AM. Firefighters immediately encountered a heavy fire load, as the interior was filled from top to bottom with a variety of items throughout the two story house thus making the initial attack extremely difficult. Within minutes, interior sectors began to report that noticeable structural weakening was beginning to occur, prompting Command to abandon the attack, remove all firefighters from inside the home and instead set up a defensive posture and protect nearby exposures. Shortly upon assuming these new tactics, the roof collapsed followed by other parts of the structure along with the announcement of the Second Alarm to summon additional resources to the scene. After about an hour the fire was called under control with numerous hot spots still in need of attention but, thankfully, no injuries reported to either occupant or firefighters at the scene. The State Fire Marshal was called for the investigation as well as the Red Cross to provide assistance to the displaced homeowner.
Although the 2014 Hurricane Season was a true 'yawner' and completely uneventful here on the First Coast (thankfully!), Mother Nature decided to provide everyone with one last reminder of her formidable strength on Monday, the 17th of the month. An incredibly powerful storm front blasted the city for a few hours, leaving behind the typical assortment of damages such as downed power lines and trees, numerous traffic accidents and other similar disasters. What made this day different from other routine storm scenarios experienced in all of these years was the prominent role played by the JFRD in the aftermath, more specifically a nearly 100 pound window pane dangling from the Wells Fargo building's 20th floor. Held up merely by fragile caulking, the swaying window required prompt and immediate attention, both arriving in the form of our department's Special Operations Team and, more specifically, Lt. Alan Mallard. The latter scaled down the side of the building and secured the deleterious item which was subsequently safely hoisted away. With this operation occurring during the 'primetime news' period, extensive 'live' media coverage was afforded to document both the courage and skill of Lt. Mallard for the entire city to admire.
On Thursday, the 20th of this month, units responded to the report of a structure fire involving a vacant house in the 8100 block of Vermanth Road. As Engines 19 and 30 arrived on scene they confirmed the presence of heavy smoke and fire and promptly initiated an aggressive interior attack. A short time thereafter, Command became aware of the weakening integrity of the structure and gave the order to evacuate and abandon the interior attack objective, sounding the air horns to ensure proper emphasis was given throughout the fireground. As would soon be established, the order came without a minute to spare as chunks of the ceiling began to fall while the firefighters were exiting the house, with one unfortunate firefighter sustaining minor injuries from the falling debris: the expected and inevitable roof collapse following shortly after everyone had made it safely outside. In light of a similar scenario having occurred just a few days before at the fire on Phoenix Avenue (listed above), the incident provided yet another significant reminder of the inherent dangers attached to the vocation of firefighting. The blaze itself was called under control after nearly 30 minutes, with no further damages noted at the scene but with the structure a total loss at an estimated value of over $125,000. Although the State Fire Marshal's office was called upon to perform the investigation, eyewitness accounts seemed to agree that juvenile firestarters were to blame for the conflagration.
Hard to believe but once again JFRD firefighters dodged the potentially lethal environment of a roof collapse: this time on Wednesday the 26th of November at a mid-morning residential structure fire in the 1100 block of Blue Sky Way, located just east of north Kernan. As the crew of Engine 29 arrived on scene they reported a single story, single family house fully involved with thick, black clouds of smoke engulfing the entire house and flames shooting skyward from the attached two car garage. Events quickly escalated into a dramatic narrative when the crews were confronted by an adult male who exclaimed his 20-something-year-old nephew was trapped in a back bedroom. The firefighters immediately worked their way through the near zero-visibility conditions within the home and found the young man, lying on a bed, and swiftly brought him outside to safety. Within minutes of achieving that objective, Command ordered an evacuation of the house as flames were now bursting through the roof of the main house. As had been the case in recent days with other residential structure fires here, too, the roof soon collapsed and again no injuries were thankfully reported in the wake of the event. The fire was soon called under control but not before the house was listed as a total loss, with the State Fire Marshal's Office summoned yet again to perform the investigative work.
Wrapping up an extremely busy month of November 2014, and occurring over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the Department came face-to-face with an extraordinary and infrequent 3rd Alarm inferno involving a vacant 31,000 square foot former furniture warehouse located at the corner of Jefferson and Forsyth. At almost the stroke of midnight, from Friday the 28th into Saturday the 29th, dispatched units arrived at the previously mentioned location to discover the huge structure glowing from fire visibly spreading throughout the capacious interior. A Second Alarm was issued almost instantly, but as it quickly became apparent that a defensive approach would be needed to combat the sizeable blaze a Third Alarm was issued to bring forth additional resources with the resulting total of 6 Ladder Pipes soon surrounding the building to deliver the massive amounts of water necessary. In all the event featured over 70 firefighters on scene, took nearly three hours to deliver a stop-loss decree, prominently featured a spectacular wall collapse (with the by now obligatory partial roof collapse occurring as well) along the south sector of the building, and captivated the local television audience all weekend long as news stations were able to broadcast their taped coverage of the huge plumes of smoke and gigantic flames that devoured the building. The latter, as an aside, dated back to 1909 when it was known as Reid Brothers Moving & Storage, eventually ending its existence in the latter half of the 20th century as Davis Brothers Furniture Company. Naturally the State Fire Marshal's Office was called to the scene to investigate, with the added element of urgency attached to the incident by virtue of the need to demolish the building's skeletal remains as quickly as possible: the charred frame and rubble representing both a dangerous life and traffic hazard.