Curry announces new JFRD position dedicated to addressing fire safety, prevention

There have been more than 40 fires in Jacksonville this month, resulting in 5 deaths

Mayor Lenny Curry announced a new position with Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department dedicated to addressing fire safety and prevention.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mayor Lenny Curry announced a new position with Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department dedicated to addressing fire safety and prevention.

Curry made the announcement at a news conference Thursday afternoon, saying he’s looking to beef up fire prevention efforts even more.

At the news conference was Alonda Oates, a JFRD emergency dispatcher, who stayed on the line to help save the life of a woman trapped in a bathroom on the second floor of a house on West 13th Street that caught Monday night. The mayor said the dispatcher was able to stay on the phone so long because of extra money that allowed more dispatchers to be hired.

Oates remained on the phone for 10 minutes after the woman called 911.

“The first thing I heard was screaming,” Oates recounted.

Oates provided instructions and calm reassurance to the woman trapped in a burning house as she fought for her life.

“They’re coming. Listen, try to remain calm and block the smoke ma’am. Get low. Can you get low to the ground?” Oates can be heard saying in audio of the 911 call.

Once she dispatched crews, she said, her next thought was: How can I help in this moment as this woman struggles to breathe?

“All I could do was offer her comfort and just give her instructions,” Oate said. “Then I heard them coming in the door then. There’s no happier feeling that comes over you when you know that the guys are there. They’re doing their thing.”

The woman, her boyfriend and his aunt all made it out.

It was one of dozens of fires in Jacksonville this month, resulting in five deaths, eight injuries and close to a dozen rescues.

Firefighters who helped save the trapped woman, as well as two children from another house fire earlier this month, stood behind city officials Thursday, as the mayor commended Oates’ lifesaving call and announced the new position aimed at preventing further fires.

“That rescue on Monday can be directly attributed to an increase in my most recent budget that was approved by our City Council,” Curry said. “I allocated additional funding for the department, which allowed for 14 new positions with the fire communications division.”

He also announced he would be reinstating a new JFRD position that had been eliminated under a previous administration.

“If we have a fire in a neighborhood, that position is going to go out, he or she whichever one is chosen, is going to go out and coordinate the walk that’s going to happen as we canvass that neighborhood and make sure those folks have the information to be safe and to have smoke detectors installed,” said JFRD Chief Keith Powers.

Firefighters and the mayor walked the neighborhood Thursday, handing out smoke detectors and information on fire prevention.

As for Oates, she was reluctant to take the title of hero, saying she was just trying to help.

“Here’s a person who’s in need of help and you are in a position to help her or him, so that’s what I was doing,” Oates said.

The fire chief said they’re looking to make a promotion internally in about two weeks for this new position that’s all about fire prevention.


About the Author:

I-TEAM and general assignment reporter