Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tanker Truck Accident Closes Lanes of Hwy. 101 Near Morgan Hill

Photo By John Whitaker
As a Fire Associates member, one never knows what to expect when called to an incident. That was certainly the case on Thursday morning, February 27!
FASCV members were already on the scene of an early-morning 3-alarm fire in San Jose (see story elsewhere in this blog), when the emergency radio crackled with a request for FASCV in Morgan Hill. The Morgan Hill Fire Department had been dispatched to an overturned gasoline tanker on southbound Hwy .101. Located between Tennant Ave. and San Martin Ave., the tanker was fully loaded with gasoline (8,500 gallons) and in a ditch on the right-hand shoulder of the freeway. And, worst of all, the commute hour would soon be approaching and it was is leaking! 
The accident occurred shortly after 1:00 A.M. when a driver lost control of his car and spun into the tanker truck and trailer. The big rig jack-knifed and slid off the roadway. After arriving on scene, Morgan Hill Fire and the CHP quickly established the "101 IC" joint command.
After  assessing the situation, the IC called for the Santa Clara County Fire Department Hazmat task force along with assistance from Cal Fire and the Gilroy Fire Department who were also called to the scene. As the event progressed, it became obvious that the incident was going to last through the morning hours, so Fire Associates was requested.
Fortunately, Fire Support Unit 3 was close to wrapping up operations at their previous call in San Jose. With the seriousness of the Morgan Hill incident becoming clear, Fire Support Unit 3 was released from responsibilities at San Jose's 3-alarm fire and responded to the 101 incident. John Whiteside drove FSU-3 to the scene, with John Whitaker following in his private vehicle. Don Gilbert also left the San Jose fire in his vehicle and stopped en route to pick up 3-dozen donuts. Rehab was establish in the fast lane of the freeway where Santa Clara County fire had already set up their portable shelter (did we mention it was raining?) and benches. John Whiteside parked FSU-3 at that location and FASCV members provided an additional portable shelter, hot beverages, donuts, and breakfast service. It's not often that Rehab is set up in the lanes of a freeway!
Photo By John Whitaker
Rehab support was in great demand throughout the morning. There were not only representatives from the previously mentioned fire agencies, there were also representatives and workers from: the Morgan Hill Police Dept., Calif. Dept. of Fish and Game, Cal Trans, Gilroy OES, several different tow companies, and representatives from the tanker truck's owners. And, all of them were served in Rehab at one time or another.
During the clean-up operation, Hwy. 101 was completely closed in the southbound direction and the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Dept. conducted evacuations in the neighborhood nearest the freeway. The CHP arranged for another tanker to come and pump out what fuel they could from the tandem-trailer truck before any attempt could be made to remove it from the freeway.
After the fuel tanks of the tanker had been safely emptied (about a 2-hour operation), the CHP was anxious to open up one southbound lane. So, all personnel who were not directly connected to the salvage operation were asked to leave the scene. Two lanes of the freeway were to remain closed so that the big rig tow companies could remove the wreckage. Fire Associates was one of those organizations who services were no longer needed, so rehab was disbanded at approximately 9:00 A.M. 

-- Report submitted by John Whitaker