Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Morgan Hill Firefighters Attack 2-Alarm Structure Fire - But That's Not the Whole Story!

Photo By John Whitaker
At 7:02 P.M. on September 11, Fire Associates was dispatched to a 2-alarm structure fire in Morgan Hill. Located at 2157 Darnis Ct., east of Highway 101 and off of E. Dunne Ave., the fire was burning in a single-family home located in a complex of mostly duplex units.
With Morgan Hill Fire Station 5 located less than a half mile away at E. Dunne Ave. and Hill Rd., firefighters were quick to arrive on scene. But, even with the close proximity, first-arriving fire crews found flames rolling out of a garage and rapidly spreading into the common attic space above the residence. The garage not only contained a heavy fuel load, it also contained a Coleman tent trailer and a workshop space with shop tools and a welding tank.
John Whiteside responded to the fire in Fire Support Unit 3 from it's "home" in South San Jose. John was joined on scene by FASCV member, John Whitaker. The "John-and-John Show" provided lots of cold beverages to fire crews who were working a hot fire on a warm end-of-summer evening. With a lot of overhaul being required, FSU-3 was on scene providing service until approximately 10:30 P.M.
But, FSU-3's release from the scene was not the end of the story. On the way back to San Jose, John Whiteside began to experience difficulty with the rig's power steering. After a short while, the intermittent power steering assist went away entirely and John had great difficulty just turning the wheel. On top of that, he noticed that the amperage gauge on the dashboard was reading lower than normal. As his concern grew that something was wrong, the engine began to overheat and, in John's words, "...the radiator was turning into a Stanley Steamer". Despite that late hour, in a sparcely populated area, he was able to get the rig to an all-night gas station where he called FASCV's top mechanic, Don Gilbert, for assistance.
Don climbed out of bed and met John at the gas station. After looking over the engine compartment, it was obvious to Don what had happened. A belt on the engine had frayed and worn a hole in the top radiator hose. The belt eventually disintegrated and pieces of the belt caused the second belt to come off the pulley. That explained the loss of the alternator, failure of the power steering pump and the loss of water from the radiator. Everything had gone wrong -- all at once!
Based on years of past experience, Don brought along his mechanic's tool kit and was able to make temporary repairs. He had some high-pressure hose repair tape which he used to patch the hole in the radiator hose and he was able to use an extension cord to patch the rig's on-board battery charger into the Onan generator. This replaced the loss of electric power from the non-working alternator. But, it became obvious, at that late hour, that they were just going to have to live with the loss of power steering.
With Don following along, John nursed the rig back to the station and the rig was put to bed, out of service, for the night. In the morning, Don visited the local Ford dealer where he purchased new belts and a radiator hose. Within a few hours, he had the unit back in service.
What would we do without Don and his resourcefulness?
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker