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3rd fire station incident sparks renewed concern

Firefighters report suspicious men at station; incident follows shooting, threat

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville firefighters are once again on high alert after a third incident at a fire station.

The most recent incident took place at a Baymeadows area fire station. Firefighters continue to be on a heightened around Jacksonville, following a shooting targeted at one station and a threat leveled at another.

Saturday morning, firefighters at Fire Station 44 on Western Way reported to police that two men were acting suspiciously at the fire station.

One firefighter found a man wandering inside the fire station's bay, looking around. When the firefighter asked the man what he was looking for, the man said his vehicle was out of gas. At the same time, another man rang the front doorbell of the fire station.

That man also asked the firefighter who answered the door for gas for his vehicle.

Both firefighters told the men to leave, and they did.

The men were seen under the hood of a white Denali parked in the parking lot of the Comfort Suites on Western Way Circle. The firefighters reported the tag number to police, and a police check showed the vehicle had been reported stolen.

A clerk at the hotel said the men, who were not guests at the hotel, came into the lobby around 7 a.m. Saturday and asked for gas.

Police searched the area for the men but didn't find them.

"I think all of those issues that have happened over the last month are still fresh in the firefighters' minds," said Randy Wyse, president of Jacksonville Association of Firefighters. "So you know, they're watching. They're being careful of where they're going and even when they're not on a run, even when they have that time at the station...when they're down and doing training , they still have that heightened sense of awareness of what's going on around them."

Recently, someone opened fire on a group of firefighters at Station 28 on the Southside, leading to some changes in protocol. Then someone made threats against Station 35 in Oceanway.

Wyse commended the firefighters from Saturday night's incident for being alert and said this is becoming a big part of the job.

"That's draining on firefighters," Wyse said. "A lot of times there's a lot of up and downs as it goes to adrenaline for firefighters. But now they're having to maintain that situational awareness through a 24-hour shift, so it's probably taxing on them. But it's something they're willing to do."  

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.