Tuesday, September 25, 2012

FASCV "Johnny-On-the-Spot" at San Jose Blaze

Photo By John Whitaker
(Note: The following is a first-hand report from "The Blogmaster" John Whitaker. The following is, for lack of a better term, the anatomy of a Fire Associates response. Many readers of this blog may not be aware of the coordination needed during the execution of our tasks. If you fall into that category, this should prove interesting.)
On the evening of Tuesday, September 25, I was sitting at my computer doing some work. As is typical of many Fire Associates members, I was monitoring the fire radio channels quietly on my emergency scanner as I worked. The time was 7:09 P.M. and I was just about to go downstairs to prepare some dinner.
Usually, the "noise" of the scanner is just in the background, but, all of a sudden, I heard some key information:
"Engine 31, Engine 24, Engine 11, Truck 16 and Battalion 2, a garage fire at 3156 Midhurst Court. Report of a garage on fire with possible people trapped."
Well, that got my attention because those three engine companies all respond into my Evergreen neighborhood. I immediately went to my upstairs window, looked to the north, and there (about a mile away) was a large column of smoke with a tell-tail orange glow at the base. Since, this was the condition right at the time of the dispatch, I knew that this was going to be a serious fire!

I returned to my computer and sent out a "heads up" message to all Fire Associates drivers giving the location of the incident and alerting them to the possibility of a response. I then changed clothes into my normal response "uniform" and headed for my car. Several minutes had passed by this time and I could hear Engine 11's siren as they responded down San Felipe Road from their nearby station.

Photo By John Whitaker
As I drove towards the fire, I could see other responding SJFD units arriving at the scene ahead of me. By this time, the battalion chief had put out a Second Alarm request due to the "smoke showing" report from several fire rigs that were en route. Traffic was heavy because, between my house and the incident, was Evergreen Valley Community College and a medium-size shopping center. As I was responding, FASCV member John Whiteside phoned me and said that he was standing by and would bring Fire Support Unit 3 in case we were need.
I decided to approach the fire from the neighborhood to the east of the incident as I anticipated that most fire equipment would be coming into the scene off San Felipe Rd., to the west. As I turned the corner at San Felipe Road and Delta Road, flames were licking over the pre-fab concrete wall that separated the burning home from the sidewalk along Delta. It was hot as I drove quickly by!
I parked my car about a block away from the fire and immediately sought out Battalion 2, who, on this A-shift evening, was Chuck Rangel. I asked Chuck if he wanted a support unit and the reply was, "Yes." I then called John Whiteside and told him to respond.
At this point, I went looking for Med30, Mike Van Elgort, to find out the location of Rehab. Mike was very busy statusing the health condition of the home's occupants and asked me to scout out a suitable location. I found a spot on the corner of Midhurst Court and Midhurst Way and coordinated the location with Med30 and the Rural-Metro EMS crews who had responded. That's right - "crews" - plural. Early reports had the possibility of 4 occupants trapped in the home, so a request for an EMS task force was made by the IC. That brought several EMS units and a Rural-Metro supervisor. As it turned out, several residents were home, but all made it out safely on their own.
Photo By John Whitaker
At this point, there was not much more I could do besides waiting for the arrival of the FSU. So, being the "Blogmaster", I started taking photos for use in this article. It was an interesting scene with a lot of fire equipment packed into a cramped little cul-de-sac. First-arriving firefighters had made a good knockdown by this time and the fire was not nearly as spectacular as it had been early on. The home had a 30-year-old wood shake roof and a very large attic space that was filled with lots of stored items. This all made for a heavy fuel load for the fire.
By the time the support unit arrived, FASCV guest Walter Huber was on scene and we were joined later by members George Hoyt and Mike Chappel. We got to work quickly and made a couple of pots of coffee and put out cold water and Gatorade along with our usual Clif Bars. As the crews were leaving, many took advantage of our "provisions" and expressed their gratitude for our presence.
With only one fire rig remaining on scene for "Fire Watch", rehab was disbanded at approximately 10:00 PM. We all left and I returned home to finally have some of that dinner I was going to prepare.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker