Thursday, May 2, 2013

San Jose Paper Recycling Facility Fire Goes to A 3rd Alarm

Photo By John Whitaker
At approximately 6:00 P.M. on Thursday, May 2, as Fire Support Unit 2 was en route to the monthly Fire Associates meeting being held in Morgan Hill, San Jose Fire received reports of a blaze in the recycling facility at 388 E. Alma Ave. The first unit on the air was John Whiteside in Fire Support 2 reporting "Smoke Showing" from Capitol Expressway. After reporting on this condition, FSU-2 continued to the scheduled meeting in Morgan Hill.
Over on Alma Ave., a fire had started in the recycled cardboard bales. Units had huge amounts of fuel in the form of bales of cardboard to contend with, and the incident quickly escalated to a second and then 3rd alarm. With 90+ degree heat that evening, and what was clearly going to be an extended operation, IC B/C Robert Sapien requested a Fire Associates response with the 2nd alarm.
FSU-2 was already committed to southbound Hwy. 101, so Fire Associates member Bruce Dembecki responded to San Jose Fire Station 35 to pick up Support Unit 3. En route, the incident was escalated to a 3rd alarm. Upon arrival, Bruce set up Rehab outside the main gate of the facility on E. Alma Ave. with the help of FASCV guest, Walter Huber. While cold drinks were the priority, incident commanders were also concerned about feeding their crews as those one scene with the first and second alarms had been dispatched before they had eaten their evening meals.
Walter Huber made a food run while Bruce dealt with Rehab and the fire crews dealt with the blaze.
The only way to extinguish the piles of burning cardboard was to get in and break up the bales. With the help of the facility's front-end loaders, crews started unstacking the burning bales and breaking them up, while Trucks 1 and 30 ran their Master streams over on the B/C corner. Foam Unit 29 was also called in to lend a hand. It was going to be a long night for fire crews.
With the high heat and the physical nature of the work, cold drinks were in demand, and the ice supply in FSU-3 started to run low. John Whiteside in FSU-2 arrived at just the right time, fully loaded with ice. Along with John, Fire Associates members John Whitaker and George Hoyt also arrived after the Fire Associates meeting to lend a hand.
By 11:00 P.M., the initial crews on scene had been replaced with a smaller contingent of fresh crews, ostensibly to maintain "Fire Watch" overnight. The fire was certainly contained, but the cardboard bales were still burning and still being pulled apart, and the new trucks set up in place of the original trucks and ran their Master Streams. With fresh crews and plans for replacements every 3 hours during the night, Rehab was disbanded and Fire Support Unit 3 was released around 11:30 P.M.
-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki