4 firefighters burned attempting rescue from house fire

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Four firefighters suffered burns Tuesday while trying to rescue someone they thought was inside a burning home in the New Town neighborhood of Northwest Jacksonville.

The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department was called just after 1 p.m. and saw flames and heavy smoke coming from the house on Acorn Street near West 2nd Street. Neighbors said someone was trapped inside, so four firefighters forced their way inside and encountered high heat and flames.

JFRD Chief Keith Powers said the firefighters sustained first- and second-degree burns, but they were in good condition and should be treated and released from UF Health Jacksonville within hours.

Powers credited the high-quality bunker gear the city issues with preventing more serious injuries to the firefighters.

“It’s the best gear in the business, and if it wasn’t for that gear, these burns would have been a lot more significant,” Powers said.

He said one of the injured firefighters actually “fussed” about being sent home to recover, saying he wanted to get back to work.

“Every day in this city (there are) house fires and these firefighters respond to them,” Powers said. “When you have a report of someone inside, they will do anything to get these people, and that’s exactly what they did. They went into a high-heat, no-visibility environment to make that rescue and pushed the limits of where they should be.”

The firefighters couldn’t find anyone inside and, after the fire was completely out, firefighters determine no one was home at the time of the fire.

The man who neighbors believed to still be in the house said he was not surprised the firefighters were told that someone was probably inside.

“We look out for each other, up and down this street,” said Charles Jackson, 71, who was renting the home with his roommate Jack Cogdell.

Jackson and Cogdell left before the fire began and didn’t know about the blaze until they returned and saw fire crews on scene.

“I saw they in front of my house, so I jumped out of my car and left it in the middle of the street and I run down here,” Cogdell said.

Cogdell said his heart dropped when he learned the firefighters had been injured.

“They were only doing their job, and it’s unfortunate they got burned,” Cogdell said. “I hope they’re OK and I pray for them.”

Cogdell said the fire marshal told him that the fire, which started in his bedroom and spread throughout the house, is believed to have ignited from an electrical problem with a heater. Cogdell explained the heater was plugged into the wall, but it wasn’t on.

Cogdell, who is a retired truck driver, said he lost just about everything he owns, including his birth certificate and Social Security card, however, fire crews were able to salvage a jar of money for him.

Neither man had renters insurance but are receiving help from the Red Cross.

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