shoppers browsed in the aisles of the A&P Supermarket at San Juan and
Hershel streets on a July afternoon in 1970. They left their
buggies and scurried for the door when a stock boy ran from the back of the
store shouting fire. It was Lt. Gene Johnson's first day at Station 14; he was
a roving officer who filled in for vacationing, sick or injured officers at
which ever station he was needed. The fire was in an open space between the
ceiling and the roof of the store. "The roof caved in before we could
really attack it," said one fireman. Lt. Johnson and a team of
firefighters were at the rear of the store. The collapsed roof at the front of
the store "produced a great quantity of flame and black smoke which
completely filled the closed-in area at the rear... "It was so dark that
we had to shine our flashlights on the fire hose to find our way back to the
door." Lt. Johnson never made it out. The fireboat Eugene Johnson
is named for the fallen firefighter."
of Valor: The History of Firefighting in Jacksonville, Florida, 1886-1986,
by John W. Cowart.
The EUGENE JOHNSON is finally being retired by the
Jacksonville Fire Department. She came up for sale in 2009, perhaps someone will
purchase her for private use? These photos were taken in February of 2009.
Stuart , in
1993, was a 1 million-gallon oil tank that burned for five days straight.