Monday, June 30, 2014

Second Vegatation Fire of the Day Spreads Firefighters and Fire Associates Thin

Photo By John Whitaker
It's been in the news. The San Jose Fire Department is understaffed due to a series of budgetary issues which have been the topic of many political debates and editorials.
Well, the issue became a reality on June 30 when two large vegetation fires broke out simultaneously.
The first blaze started early in the afternoon on the hills above the Blossom Valley.  Approximately 2 hours later, with most of San Jose's fire resources deployed on this fire, a second multi-alarm vegetation fire broke out along Coyote Creek in the area of the Los Lagos Golf Course. At one point during the afternoon, firefighters from every fire district in the county were deployed to San Jose to either directly support firefighting efforts, or to back-fill the San Jose Fire Dept. by staffing stations.
For a different reason, Fire Associates units were also stretched thin - we only have 3 vehicles. Fire Associates' efforts to support the first blaze are described in another blog entry on this web page. But, in short, FSU-2 and FSU-3 were both "tied up" on the original scene, and FSU-1 is located some distance away in Santa Clara.
John Whitaker had just left the Santa Teresa fire in his personal vehicle when the Los Lagos IC asked for Fire Associates assistance. Knowing that our south county rigs were busy, he phone SJ Dispatch and offered to support the second incident from his personal, all-wheel drive vehicle. The offer was quickly accepted, and John headed to nearby Station 35 to load up with Rehab supplies.
Photo By John Whitaker
At about the same time, Fire Associates members in the north county area also heard the request for service and headed to San Jose to lend assistance. John arrived early in the event, but had great difficulty in accessing a proper spot to set up and serve the hot and tired firefighters. The fire was spread out for some distance along the creekbed, which was lined on both sides by a chain link fence.
By the time John had finished scouting the area, Mike Garcia and Jerry Haag arrived in staging with FSU-1. After some radio discussions with the IC, it was determined that rehab should be set up in a corner of the parking lot at the golf course clubhouse near a gate to a bike trail along the creek. Even with this description, accessing the proper location at the golf course wasn't obvious.
Once rehab was established, FASCV members went about their usual operation of determining firefighters' needs and then meeting those needs. On a day when temperatures were in the low 100-degree range, that need was mostly hydration. After being on scene for approximately 1 hour, the IC decided to establish two rehab areas - one on the east side of the creek and one on the west side. Sandwiches had been ordered for dinner, and they needed to be distributed to crews who were very spread out all over the fireground. John stayed on the east side with his personal vehicle and Mike and Jerry went over to the west side to support the crews located there.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker