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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City

Fire At the Health Department: Lake City Fire Department Arrives at Scene in Two Minutes


A ServPro worker points to the soot on the walls. ServPro is a disaster remediation firm.

LAKE CITY, FL – Late yesterday morning, your reporter dropped by the Lake Shore Hospital Authority to try and obtain a public record; once again the record was impossible to obtain. In the Authority lobby was a flyer announcing a health fair at the former Family Health Center, now Palm Medical. One of the fair's sponsors was the Columbia County Health Department, located across the street from the Authority HDQ. Your reporter walked across the street to find out about the Health Fair and found ServPro cleaning up the after effects of a fire in the Health Department men's room adjacent to the lobby.


The fire started in a plastic trash can, which was here, before it turned to smoke and soot.

Columbia County Department of Health Director, Mark Lander, told the Observer, "We had a fire yesterday. Somebody started a fire in the bathroom."

Your reporter asked, "Why?"

Director Lander answered, "We don’t know. About 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon one of our staff saw smoke coming from the bathroom. She felt the door wasn’t hot. She pushed it in and smoke came out. By 4:01 we called a code red and the fire alarm was pulled. By 4:03 everyone was evacuated from the building and the fire department was here. It took them two minutes to get here."

Director Lander continued, "The fire was extinguished by 4:10."

The Observer: "What was burning?"

Director Lander:  "Somebody threw something into the trash can and set the trash can on fire."

The Observer: "Plastic throws off a lot of smoke and soot when it burns."

Director Lander, "It sure does. We are getting rid of the plastic trash cans and going to metal."


The Health Department is replacing its plastic trash cans.

The Observer inquired about any disruption in services.

Director Lander explained, "We came in at 7:30 this morning and moved out of our lobby into our conference room. We are ready to go. Our conference room will act as the lobby for a couple of days."

"The WIC clients, [(Women, Infants, and Children) a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture], are being sent to Union County today and tomorrow and we should have that program running in our offices on Friday."

Director Lander concluded, "Our staff takes its job of serving the community seriously. It is priority number one at the Health Department. They are looking forward to business as usual on Monday."

Before this article was posted, the Observer contacted Lake City Fire Chief, Frank Armijo, regarding Director Lander's changing the Health Department trash cans from plastic to metal.

Chief Armijo said, "I agree. In areas of low visibility or behind closed doors I recommend metal trash cans with lids. In an office environment, it is likely that a fire in a metal trash can with a lid will self extinguish."

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