Friday, September 30, 2016

Late September House Fire Taxes Crews in the South County

Friday, September 30 at 4:54 A.M., Morgan Hill CalFire received reports of a house fire in the hills west of town. This was located in the South Santa Clara Fire District, at 2880 Tohara Way. This is in the area off of Sycamore Drive, west of Watsonville Highway. 
The woodlands are tinder dry, and the fire danger is HIGH! Consequently a high initial dispatch of 18 engines, 9 being wildland engines, 4 water tenders, 2 hand crews and 4 Chiefs was made. Fire units from San Jose, Gilroy and Morgan Hill City were also part of the dispatch.
The single-story house was located near the deadend of Tohara Way, with no nearby hydrants. Water was trucked in to the scene. At 6:17 A.M. Fire Associates was paged to respond with a Fire Support Unit and John Whiteside took FSU-3 about 30 miles to the scene. Benches, donuts, hot coffee, water, Gatorade, and Clif Bars were provided the remaining crews. John was released around 9:00 A.M. The house was gutted.
Several of the responding wildland rigs from other CalFire units were covering vacant stations around Morgan Hill. A 4,300+ acre vegetation fire has been burning since September 26 in steep inaccessible terrain about 10 miles northwest of this house. A large base camp had been set up in nearby Gilroy, about 10 miles south, and some 2,000 personnel are involved. The morning of this fire, there were 179 engines, 34 water tenders, 32 dozers, 61 hand crews, and 22 helicopters and air tankers assigned to the “Loma” vegetation fire.
— Report submitted by John Whiteside

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Fire Associates Supports South County House Fire

Thursday night, Sept. 8, at 11:50 P.M., Morgan Hill Cal Fire, which also staffs the Morgan Hill City Fire Dept and the South Santa Clara County Fire District, dispatched units to a house fire at 14840 Columbet Avenue in San Martin, cross street of East Middle Avenue, in the fire district. Arriving units reported fire from the rear of the structure, 50% involved. All occupants were out, but the structure was the home of an organization that shelters rescued dogs. Almost a dozen dogs were lost, but 4 were saved with resuscitation.
Fire units from the District, Cal Fire, Morgan Hill City, and Gilroy responded to the scene while San Jose provided 2 engines to cover open stations. Eight (8) engines, 2 water tenders, 1 ladder truck and 2 Battalion Chiefs were involved in the fire attack.
At 12:25 A.M. Friday morning Fire Associates was paged for support. John Whiteside and new member Walter Huber met at San Jose Station 35 to take Fire Support Unit #3, while Bill Roth went to the scene. Lighting, bench seating, water, Clif bars, Gatorade, donuts, and coffee were provided and much appreciated by the fire fighters.

FSU-3 was released at 04:03 A.M.

— Report submitted by John Whiteside

Saturday, August 27, 2016

4-Alarm Blaze Destroys San Jose Storage Units

On Saturday, August 27, at a few minutes past 9:00 P.M., San Jose Fire received calls for smoke coming from a unit in a very large complex of Public Storage buildings. The location was 925 Felipe Avenue at the dead end off Olinder Court and Story Road. This location is almost underneath the bridges at the junction of Highway 101 and Interstates 280/680.
San Jose dispatched a full first alarm at 9:06 P.M., and initial attacking units reported a car fire within a unit in the middle of a large, L-shaped building.
The fire soon spread to adjacent units and a second alarm was requested. Master streams were soon put into service and a third alarm was requested. At 10:31 P.M. Fire Associates was paged and Don Gilbert and John Whiteside responded with Fire Support Unit 2. They were met on-scene by Mike Garcia. While FSU-2 was enroute, the fire escalated to a fourth alarm with a Mutual Aid structure response from Santa Clara County, Milpitas, and Santa Clara City fire departments.
However, the en route fourth alarm rigs were cancelled when the smoke coming from the other leg of the L-shaped building was found to be only drift smoke from the main fire. A great effort contained the fire damage to several units centered on the initial fire site.
Donuts, water, Gatorade, Clif bars and coffee, along with bench seating were very much appreciated by the exhausted fire fighters. FSU-2 was released at 3:05 A.M. and returned to quarters. A few fire crews remained on scene through the next day to completely extinguish the fire.
-- Report. Submitted by John Whitesite

Friday, August 12, 2016

FASCV Called to Vegetation Fire Near Uvas Dam

On Friday, August 12, CAL FIRE Morgan Hill received many, many calls reporting a fire west of Morgan Hill in the area of the Uvas Reservoir. Smoke could be seen from CAL FIRE Headquarters.
At 3:12 P.M., a high-level dispatch was initiated and ultimately included over 30 engines, 3 dozers, 4 hand crews, 3 air tankers, 2 copters, and an air attack coordinator. Fire Associates was also requested for Rehab. Other fire agencies included: San Jose, Santa Clara County, Felton, and Monterey CAL FIRE who all sent equipment.
Due to the steep terrain, air tankers were used to slow the spread of the fire by surrounding it with retardant and protect houses threatened by the blaze until ground crews could access the location.
Fire Associates member John Whiteside, on CAL FIRE Volunteer in Prevention (VIP) duty in the Emergency Command Center, put on his FASCV cap and responded in his POV with drinks and ice while Don Gilbert was preparing Fire Support Unit 2 in San Jose to respond to the support request. Rehab was set up in a vacant lot near Fell Court and Uvas Road. FA was released at 8:50 P.M. The fire was contained at 15 acres.
-- Report Submitted by John Whiteside

Sunday, August 7, 2016

FASCV Responds to South County Fire

SCC (South Santa Clara County Fire District) residential fire, 14119 Murphy Avenue - north of San Martin Avenue.  FSU-3 with John Whiteside and Bill Roth.

Approx. 24 engines/water tenders/truck plus dozer and Copter 106 on scene. Burned cars, greenhouses, barn, several residences, and spreading into the grass requiring structure protection on the property of a wholesale nursery. A large natural gas line was afire and venting, requiring PG&E to dig and pinch-off the line to extinguish the last of the fire. FASCV released at 2350.

Because of the Hwy 101 repaving (I had forgotten about) it took almost 1 hour coming home at midnight to go from Cochran to Bailey. ALL 3 lanes were creeping along, backed up to Cochran, and forming a single lane south of Bailey.
-- Report submitted by John Whiteside

Monday, June 27, 2016

Yet Another Vegetation Fire Brings A Fire Associates Response

Shortly before 3:00 P.M. on Monday, June 27, County Fire received reports of a car fire on Hwy. 17 near Redwood Estates in the mountains above Los Gatos. Shortly after the initial report, there were additional reports from more callers and then from the CHP of the fire spreading to the grass — and then the CHP report was, “The whole hill is on fire!” 
Additional resources were dispatched, including a full Cal Fire response, and mutual aid from Santa Cruz County, along with Santa Clara County Fire’s Level 2 brush response.
Upon arrival, Battalion 83 quickly determined there was a major threat to the homes in the area as the fire was spreading quickly in thick Santa Cruz Mountains brush. The IC requested two Type 1 Immediate-Need Strike Teams for structure protection, and Cal Fire upgraded their response, adding more hand crews and air tankers. San Jose Fire filled one of the Type I strike teams with their five closest engines, backfilling their region with resources from around San Jose. The second strike team was made up of units from Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Mountain View, and NASA Ames Fire.
From Los Gatos Boulevard a large header was visible in the Mountains and it was clear that today there was going to be a fire fight.
Don Gilbert and John Whiteside responded to San Jose Fire Station 6 and picked up Fire Support Unit 2. Traveling to the incident was problematic as Highway 17 was closed in both directions and traffic was extremely heavy. Under code 3 escort, the Fire Support rig made it way up Highway 17. Then, leaving the highway, FSU-2 made its way to Redwood Fire Station where they established Rehab.
Back at the fire fight, with aerial attack underway, there were many residences, cars, and fire apparatus covered in pink goo from above. Bulldozers went to work to create a fire break, while hand crews and engine crews were working on cutting lines and doing fire suppression. The fire had worked its way away from the highway and into the hills, but the fire-damaged trees were still threatening to fall across the highway, presenting yet another problem that would need to be resolved before the highway could be reopened to traffic.
With an incredible response, a large number of resources, and dedicated crews, the fire was contained before it could damage any residences. By around 9:00 P.M., they were able to open one southbound lane on Hwy. 17, with northbound having been opened earlier in the evening. Mop-up operations continued overnight.
The Fire Associates crew at Redwood Fire Station were kept busy in Rehab, with fire crews coming and going throughout the evening. Along with all the municipal and state crews, 5 inmate hand crews came through Rehab. 200 burritos were obtained and served for dinner, until there were no more. Fire Support Unit 2 was released around midnight and was back in quarters around 12:30 A.M.

— Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

Monday, June 20, 2016

5-Acre Grass Fire Challenges Firefighters in San Jose

Early on the afternoon of Monday, June 20, San Jose Fire dispatched units to a vegetation fire on Quimby Road, at Ranch Road. The location was at the very top of Quimby Road, in the City's eastern foothills.  
Very quickly, based upon the smoke column seen from the valley floor, San Jose units requested a Tier 2 response, which dispatches Fire Associates. John Whiteside met Don Gilbert at Station 6 to take Fire Support Unit #2. They were met on scene by George Hoyt and guest Daniel Capostagno. The fire was determined to be in Cal Fire's response area which resulted in a medium wildland response from that agency.
The fire was burning on a very steep, west-facing hillside used for grazing along the north side of Quimby Rd. The easterly side of the hill drops down into the county’s Grant Ranch Park and Mt. Hamilton Road. A driveway to a farm house at the top of the hill allowed access for units to reach the head of the fire and stop the progress. The fire was contained at 5.2 acres.
Aircraft were not utilized due to power lines crossing the scene. Among the units dispatched by San Jose and Cal Fire were 2 water tenders, 8 engines, 4 brush patrols, and 6 Cal Fire wildland engines, along with 2 dozers, and 2 hand crews. FSU-2 was released at 3:15 P.M.
-- Report submitted by John Whiteside

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Popular Businesses Lost In 4-Alarm Strip Mall Blaze

Shortly before midnight on Tuesday, June 14, San Jose Fire received reports of bushes on fire and flames showing from above the roof of a strip mall at Santa Teresa and Cahallan.
First-arriving units found the flaming trees at the rear of the complex and reported that they were impinging on the structure at the roof line. While setting up to handle the trees first-in units requested next arriving units check the roof of the strip mall.
By the time fire units arrived, the fire was already into the attic. While crews made several attempts to run a strip cut on the roof to isolate the fire from other areas in the building, the fire was moving too quickly through a common attic space. The fire spread rapidly from one end of the building through to the other, destroying all but two businesses in the main building of the mall. The remaining businesses suffered from smoke and water damage.
The Incident went to 4 alarms in less than 20 minutes from the original call. On the 3rd alarm request, Fire Associates was dispatched and John Whiteside headed to Fire Station 35 to pick up Fire Support Unit 3. FASCV President Bruce Dembecki went straight to the scene. There was a good mix of both hot and cold drinks being consumed and both Cliff bars and donuts were popular at 2:00 A.M. Assisted FASCV members on scene by guest, Walter Huber.
The 4th alarm was filled by units from Santa Clara County Fire which allowed the brand new Truck 85 to be put into service for the first time. This turned out to be the first time its master stream had been used on an actual fire.

-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Another San Jose Grass Fire Brings a Fire Associates Response

Shortly before sunset on June 12, San Jose Fire received reports of a fire on the hill near the 5300 block of Hellyer Ave. Being in a threat zone, Cal FIre was also notified. After the 5th phone call reporting the fire, Battalion 13 ordered a TIER response while initial units were still en route. 
Upon arrival, it was discovered that the fire had spread to approximately one acre of grassland. However, the grass was dry and there was a breeze pushing the fire. With a rapid rate of spread, Hellyer IC called for a TIER 2 response. Meanwhile, Cal Fire was also sending a medium response. 
On the TIER 2 dispatch, Fire Associates was paged out. John Whiteside responded with Fire Support Unit 3 while Bruce Dembecki and Bill Roth responded directly to the scene. Also on scene were Fire Associates guests Daniel Capostagno and Walter Huber. 
As the fire grew, and a potential spread of several hundred acres on the hillside, Hellyer IC escalated the incident to a TIER 3.

Fire crews were able to contain the fire at around 12 acres and at about 2 hours into the incident the fire was under control. Citizens in the area reported that a mylar balloon drifted into the high voltage transmission wires overhead, and the flames from that dropped to the grass, causing the ignition.
Once crews were finished on the hillside, they stopped by at Rehab for a cold drink and some food before packing up and returning to service.

— Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

San Jose Grass Fire Consumes Hilltop

On Wednesday, June 8, shortly before sunset, San Jose Fire received reports of a “hill on fire” at Cathedral Oaks Park in San Jose’s Almaden Valley neighborhood. With smoke showing from Station 28, the incident was upgraded to a TIER response.
Once on scene, Engine 28 requested a TIER 2 and set about making access. Access was challenging as the park was surrounded by homes.
The TIER 2 activation triggered a Fire Associates page out and Fire Associates member Bruce Dembecki responded with Fire Support Unit 2. John Whiteside responded to the area in FSU-3 and Don Gilbert met the team on scene.
The fire consumed a couple of acres of the mountain top. There were no injuries and all units were released by 10:30 P.M.
-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki