Monday, April 7, 2014

Eichler-style Houses Burn On A Warm Spring Day In San Jose

Photo By Craig Allyn Rose
The smart phone app "Pulsepoint" is intended to be a tool for notifying users of a heart attack victim near their location. The thinking is that if someone who knows CPR could get to a victim early, a life might be saved. According to reports, nationwide, the app has worked successfully several times in that capacity.
However, for members of Fire Associates of Santa Clara Valley, the Pulsepoint app has also been a useful tool in the early notification of potential multi-alarm structure fires.
Such was the case on Monday afternoon, April 7, when the Pulsepoint app activated to alert users to a house fire in West San Jose. At 2:58 P.M., John Whitaker saw on Pulsepoint that there was a structure fire at 4655 Mossbrook Circle. He then went to his emergency scanner radio to listen to the details. 
Almost immediately, Air 2 (the San Jose Police helicopter) was over the scene and reported to Fire Dispatch that the structure of origin was already fully engulfed and houses on either side of the residence were beginning to catch fire. The Battalion Chief then came on the radio and, based on Air 2's observation, requested a second alarm.
Photo By John Whitaker
With that report, John anticipated a FASCV response and began changing clothes. In addition, John also phoned FASCV member Don Gilbert to see if he was aware of the incident. Don replied that he, too, was in "response mode" and would join up with John at SJFD Station 6 in case Fire Support Unit 2 was needed. Shortly after Don and John arrived at Station 6, the event escalated to a third alarm and Fire Dispatch agreed that FSU-2 should respond.
When fire crews arrived on scene, they found that a 1-story, Eichler-style house was indeed fully involved with the roof already threatening to collapse. The house on the "bravo" side was also 30% involved and the house on the "delta" side was beginning to burn. Eichler-style homes are notorious for posing a severe fire danger. Their all wood construction and open-air design lend themselves to quick fire extension. Among Bay Area firefighters, Eichler-style homes are known as "7-minute houses".
Photo By John Whitaker
With the narrow, residential streets filled with fire apparatus, FSU-2 had a difficult time reaching the suggested rehab location. But, after some tricky negotiation between parked fire rigs, parked cars, and some flower beds (with the approval of the home owners), FSU-2 reached rehab. Don and John were met by new FASCV member Mike Garcia along with guests Kenny von Needham and Mike Jensen.
At the request of SJFD Med30, a formal rehab area was set up in the driveway of a neighboring residence. Ice chests, a table, and benches were quickly set out for the expected rush of fire crews. An EMS crew from Rural-Metro soon arrived in rehab, and when firefighters began filtering through, they had their vital signs checked out after what proved to be a very hot fire on a warm, Spring day.
FSU-2 and FASCV members remained on scene until they were released shortly after 6:30 P.M.
  • A San Jose Mercury-News story can be read at:  Homes Burn 
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker