Tuesday, September 18, 2012

San Jose Condo Fire Requires Quick Action

Photo By John Whitaker
On Tuesday morning, September 18, while most FASCV members were sound asleep at 5:09 A.M., the morning's silence was broken by a pager message from the San Jose Fire Department. A condo unit was on fire at 671 Yolo Court, near the intersection of Capitol Expressway and Narvaez Ave. in the heart of the Valley. With several FASCV members initially slowed by some confusion with the location specified in the pager message, John Whiteside volunteered to drive Fire Support Unit 3 to the scene of the 2-alarm blaze.

Located at the end of a narrow cul-de-sac, SJFD Truck 13 was the first arriving rig. Initial reports were of a person trapped, so the crew immediately went into rescue mode. All but one resident had escaped from the structure, but a woman was still on the condo's wooden balcony. With help from the SJPD, she was brought to a safe location while additional fire companies began the fire attack. The fully involved unit was one of eight in the building. Because of firefighters' quick action, the only loss of life was one of two dogs owned by the resident. Fire crews held the blaze to the initial upstairs unit, with the lower unit suffering water damage. Power to the building was shut off, which required several residents to accept the offer of a place to stay from the American Red Cross.

Photo By John Whitaker
This call to Fire Associates was a good example of what it sometimes takes to get a Fire Support Unit on scene.

Somehow, after SJFD Dispatch called our paging service with the location of the incident, the page that went out attributed the call to "SNC", which most FASCV members recognize as the tri-graph for the Santa Clara City Fire Dept. This was an innocent mistake, but it led to a couple of responders initially not responding, since they lived in South San Jose. But, when a second page did not come out (saying that a Support Unit was being taken) in a timely manner, John Whitaker and John Whiteside both made phone inquiries to the paging service. By that time, Jerry Haag had indicated that he would take Support Unit 1. John Whiteside phoned Jerry and suggested that he could get FSU-3 there faster. So, Jerry backed off taking FSU-1 and went in his personal vehicle directly to the scene where he was met by John Whitaker, George Hoyt and Walter Huber (guest).

It should be pointed out that this sort of mistake happens VERY rarely. But, it helps to point out the complexity of getting support to a fire scene. It all hinges on the accuracy of the information we receive. And, the ability and willingness to communicate between members is a vital part of what we do in order to respond.

As it always works out, FASCV once again provided service to a bunch of tired firefighters. Several pots of hot coffee, lots of water and Gatorade, and a box of Clif Bars was again provided as a "Firefighter's Breakfast". FSU-3 was released from the incident at approximately 9:30 A.M.
  • John Whitaker's photos can be viewed at:  Condo Fire
  • A San Jose Mercury News story can be read at:  8-plex Blaze
-- Report Submitted By John Whitaker