As June arrives, so does the 'official' commencement of another Hurricane Season with the 2020 season projected to be an above average season of storm activity. Taken together with the seemingly perpetual and certainly perfidious threat of the COVID 19 pandemic, added along to the national protests associated with the 'I Can't Breathe' initiative that often resulted in criminal rioting in Jacksonville and many other cities over the weeknd of 30-31 May, subsequently culminating locally with a citywide curfew lifted at 6 AM Monday morning, June 1st, it would appear that the year 2020 should truly go back to where it came from and kindly ask for a re-do in order to properly start all over again!
In far more uplifting news, however, the Department was once again able to secure a federal SAFER grant and will be able to hire well over 60 new firefighters through this source of funding: a wonderful boon and asset for both the JFRD and our city.
Aligned with the apparent theme of '2020 - The Year That Should Go Away,' and in keeping with the ongoing hectic schedule for our first responders (pandemic, citywide protests) coupled with looming threats (hyper-active hurrican season projected by the experts), the JFRD tragically sustained the worst, single incident related number of injured firefighters at an emergency in well over a quarter century: a shipboard fire aboard a vehicle cargo ship occurring on 4 June at the Blount Island terminal. Responding to a report of a fire around 4 PM in the inner-cargo area of a vessel belonging to Hoegh Autoliners and carrying over 2,000 wrecked and salvaged vehicles on board, firefighters were confronted by an extremely difficult and challenging scenario upon attempting to extinguish the blaze aboard the capacious, over 600 foot long vessel featuring a superstructure of 15 decks. With all of the ship's working crew safely removed and accounted for, firefighters engaged in a protracted and taxing fight to subdue the fire that would eventually see a Third Alarm called to the scene and result in the assembly of well over 100 emergency responders. Approximately three hours into the evolution, however, and the reality of the dangers associated with this incident became abundantly clear as an explosion ripped through a portion of the vessel, wounding 8 firefighters in the process, some suffering from extremely severe and traumatic injuries. Multiple agencies, including the Coast Guard, were soon involved in many of the aspects associated with this incident with a cause for this horrific conflagration yet to be determined: the latter seemingly inconsequential when compared with the thoughts and prayers needed for our injured firefighters.