Monday, February 10, 2014

Roof Collapse Results In A Unique Call for Firefighters and FASCV

Photo By John Whitaker
When San Jose firefighters answered a call for a water flow alarm at 1480 Nicora Ave., they expected to find it to be a false alarm or, at worst, a broken fire sprinkler head. The didn't imagine what they actually found!
A large portion of a warehouse roof had collapsed which resulted in a lot of broken sprinkler pipes and, hence, the water flow alarm. Arriving fire crews found a major portion of the approximately 200 x 400 square foot, wooden truss roof on the ground. Since the IC didn't know whether anyone had been inside the structure or whether its contents were hazardous, the equivalent of a second alarm was called as a Hazmat team and the SJFD USAR units were all called into action. Since it was nearly impossible to see under the rubble, a request was also made for search dogs to be brought to the incident.
The initial call came in to Dispatch at 5:03 P.M. and Fire Associates was requested approximately an hour later. Bruce Dembecki arrived in Fire Support Unit 2 and he was met on scene by John Whitaker and Kenny Needham (guest).  Later on, John Whiteside arrived in Fire Support Unit 3. Two support units were not required on scene, but John needed to transfer some supplies from one rig to another and this was a convenient location to restock the rigs.
As the search continued, it was thought that meals would have to be provided to firefighters who hadn't yet had their dinner. Rehab was set up in a corner of the property and firefighters who were waiting for the dogs to finish their search took advantage of the coffee, Gatorade, and Clif Bars that were available. The search went quicker that expected and no victims were found in the building. As it turned out, the building had been empty for a long time and was being offered for sale.
While the dogs were making their search, several FASCV members were invited to come closer to the building and watch the search operation. There were 3 dog teams conducting the search -- one from the Santa Clara Sheriff's Department and two dogs from FEMA Task Force 3, based in San Mateo County.

As it turn out, no victims were found in the structure, but that didn't satisfy the dogs. The dogs are trained to find a victim and they are not "happy" if they don't finish their task. One of the handlers asked FASCV member John Whitaker if he wouldn't mind going into a dark corner of the property, curling up, and letting the dog's "find" him. Being pressed into service as a "victim" was a little unique for someone who's usually brewing pots of coffee and handing out sandwiches! John did as instructed -- letting the dogs each find him, allowing them to bark at him loudly, and then rewarding the dog with a chew toy. It was all in a day's work! FSUs-2 and 3 were released from the scene and put back into service at approximately 9:00 P.M.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker