Lake Morton Plaza Thanks First Responders With Barbecue Dinner
by James Coulter
On June 26, 2018, a rooftop fire at Lake Morton Plaza in Lakeland was extinguished thanks to the quick response and team effort from local fire rescue team members.
Half a year later, the fire damage has been repaired, the building was re-opened, and the staff and residents showed their appreciation through a barbecue dinner hosted on Tuesday evening.
The dinner was catered through Lakeland Barbecue Company, which provided an outdoor buffet with pulled pork and chicken, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, potato salad, and cole slaw.
Aside from enjoying their meal, residents, staff, and fire rescue team members were able to participate in outdoor activities such as cornhole, as well as listen to music provided by local musician Dan Signor.
Near the end of the evening, most of the fire rescue team members had been dispatched to fire calls, but all of them were honored for the hard work they did to help put out the fire earlier that summer, explained Shanon Clark, Lake Morton Plaza Executive Director.
The fire occurred earlier this year on June 26. The 10-story building, which serves as an assisted living facility, received an expedient response, with 11 fire trucks, four ambulances, a dozen police officers, and a paramedic unit arriving on the scene, according to a report in The Ledger.
Following the fire, nearly 129 residents were evacuated from the building and were required to find shelter within the surrounding community until sufficient repairs were made to the building, Clark explained.
The repairs to the fire and water damage took months, with the very last resident moving back into the building by mid-October, she said.
Both the fire rescue team’s efforts in putting out the fire and attending to the residents to assure their safety before and after the fire was more than commendable and worthy of a barbecue dinner, she said.
“We wanted to do something to thank all the firefighters for all that they have done for us,” she said. “It is all happy and positive moving forward.”
The phenomenal job by the first responders to help extinguish the fire and minimize its overall damage was due to Lake Morton Plaza’s close proximity to the local fire department, as well as its staff expedient response in making the emergency call, explained Cheryl Edwards, Fire Marshal of the Lakeland Fire Department.
As the fire occurred upon the rooftop, it did not set off any of the indoor fire alarms; so it was fortunate for the building’s staff to detect the fire and notify the local department as soon as they could, Edwards said.
“We were at the fire that broke out here,” she said. “Our fire department and crew did an outstanding job on a very quick knockdown, really minimizing the damage to the structure.”
Being able to meet many of the residents whom her fellow fire fighters assisted during the incident that summer was more than reward enough for her that evening, she said.
“I think this was a wonderful event that Lake Morton Plaza hosted to thank us for assisting,” she said. “Obviously, it is not called for, and seldom does something like this happen, so it was very refreshing, and to me, it was special to see and meet all the residents who came and moved back in and talk with them.”
Catering the dinner was Joel Vann, Owner of The Lakeland Barbecue Company. He and his team has been involved with many past events at Lake Morton Plaza and other assisted living facilities within the area.
Vann likes being able to cater such events, especially when it involved honoring the brave men and women who help keep his local community safe, as they did during the fire earlier that summer.
“I think they did a good job with them,” he said. “When you deal with first responders, it is hard to get them all to come out [at an event like this], and we had about 40 firefighters, so I think that is very good.”