An extraordinary 'hello' was issued by the month of August as the aforementioned arrived on Thursday, 1 August, with a memorable storm system that had emergency responders scrambling all over the city in response to an incredible call volume. As the weather rapidly deteriorated in the afternoon of that inchoate date of the month, heavy rains created between 2 and 4 feet of standing water in parts of the city with lightning strikes responsible for several house fires, more prominently in the 5300 block of Heron View Drive in Arlington and the 4400 block of Misty Dawn Court on the city's far southside. Although neither of these two fires (or any of the other smaller ones that also popped up across the city) would prove disastrous, one event affiliated with this storm system would be noteworthy for delivering a level of destruction not seen in Jacksonville for nearly a decade: an EF-2 tornado. The tornado arrived shortly after 4 PM and delivered quite a blow to an area stretching along Monument Road just east of St. John's Bluff and nearly extending to McCormick Road. Huge portions of wooden fencing, tree branches and other assorted debris was scattered all throughout the previously referenced area, with numerous homes and vehicles damaged by the turbulent winds. Although the Red Cross would be required to provide sheltering services for several displaced families only one solitary, minor injury was reported in the aftermath of the system.
The time of nearly 11:30 AM Sunday, August 18th saw the Department respond to what would eventually become a Second Alarm structure fire at the Woods of Mandarin Apartments. Located in the 3200 block of Hartley Road, the fire would require nearly 30 minutes of concentrated efforts before being called under control with at least 16 people displaced and in need of assistance from the American Red Cross. Four apartment units on the ground floor sustained water and smoke damage while an equal number of apartments on the second floor were rendered completely uninhabitable, emphasized by a large, gaping hole in the roof. Considering how precariously close the blaze came to spreading throughout the common attic area into an adjacent building (only halted by the extraordinary efforts of the firefighters on scene) along with the fact that no injuries were reported from the scene at all, the incident can most assuredly be classified as a successful fire suppression event showcasing yet again the incredible level of skill affixed to the men and women of the Department.
Lightning strikes resulting in house fires may not actually represent a routine occurrence within our City, but they are also not exactly an anomaly, either. What does represent an unusual and irregular emergency response is when the lightning strike results in a house fire with the house never having been directly hit by this powerful act of Mother Nature. Such was the strange case on Wednesday, 21 August, when units were dispatched to the report of a house fire in the 3900 block of Ringneck Drive in the late morning at approximately 11 AM. Although the fire itself, confined to one bedroom in the single family residence, proved to be an unworthy adversary for the firefighters who called the incident under control in just over twenty minutes, the circumstances surrounding the incident were truly noteworthy and unique. A passing thunderstorm delivered a lightning strike to a pine tree 15 feet in distance away from the house, with the bolt subsequently traveling along the root system underneath the soil until making contact with the air conditioning unit next to the structure. From there the surge ventured into the home, frying the circuit breaker and wiring in the process and leading to the ignition of a bed in one of the interior rooms. The powerful display was further emphasized by the ostentatious and pronounced trench of dirt tracing the 15 foot path from the tree to the A/C Unit. Thankfully no injuries were reported and damages were estimated in the $12,000 range. The firefighters received an additional and well-deserved thank you from the family as the unaccounted pet cat was discovered and brought to safety during the primary search.