Sunday, November 16, 2014

Major San Jose Church Fire Brings 4-Alarm Response

Photo by Michael Garcia
You wouldn't think that a major fire could start burning in a church on a Sunday afternoon, but that's exactly what happened in San Jose on Nov. 16.
Shortly after 2:00 P.M., and just after the weekly Italian Mass had concluded, San Jose Fire dispatchers began receiving calls that a fire was burning in the Holy Cross Catholic church. Located at 580 Jackson Street, between 12th and 13th Streets, the blaze was reportedly burning in the choir loft area at the front of the structure. While en route, the Battalion Chief called a second alarm as multiple calls were being received and smoke was showing.
First-arriving fire units reported afterward that, upon arrival, smoke was billowing out of every external opening in the large building. An interior attack was quickly begun, but the fire progressed rapidly into the ceiling rafters and spread to the roof and bell tower.
Photo By John Whitaker
At 2:40 P.M., a third alarm was called, followed shortly thereafter by a fourth alarm. After a valiant effort to get ahead of the blaze, firefighters had to pull out of the church because the integrity of the structure was beginning to be of concern. Three aerial master streams were set up along with numerous ground monitors in a huge "surround-and-drown" effort to curtail the fire.
The third alarm brought with it a request for Fire Associates assistance. Don Gilbert answered the call with Fire Support Unit 2. Don and John Whiteside were in communication and it was decided that an additional Support Unit might be helpful because of the size of the fire ground and the shear number of firefighters on scene. John Whiteside left for SJFD Station 35 and responded to the scene with FSU-3. Also responding directly to the fire were FASCV members Bob Gundrum, Mike Garcia, John Whitaker, and Len Williams.
Photo By John Whitaker
After conferring with SJFD Med30, a primary Rehab area was established on Jackson Street just to the west of the fire. Lemonade, Gatorade, water, and Clif Bars were provided to firefighters and a benches were set up for a place to rest. Once on scene, John Whiteside set up FSU-3 on Jackson Street to the east of the involved structure. As the dinner hour approached, and crews were still on scene, 100 burritos were ordered for dinner. Shortly before 6:00 P.M., John Whitaker left in his personal vehicle to pick up the order from a downtown restaurant. A meal area was set up in the primary Rehab area and fire crews were served their dinner.
At approximately 8:00 P.M., after all the firefighters had eaten, both Rehab areas were de-mobed and FASCV members were released by the IC.
  • Photos by John Whitaker and Mike Garcia can be viewed at:  Holy Cross Church
  • A San Jose Mercury News story can be read at:  Church Fire
-- Story submitted by John Whitaker