Thursday, May 7, 2015

San Jose Fire Crews Respond to 3-Alarm Gas Explosion

Photo By John Whitaker
Lately, it seems that every time Fire Associates gets a call for rehab assistance, our members are either in a meeting, volunteering for another agency, or involved in some sort of work activity. Thursday night, May 7 was no different.
While the majority of FASCV's membership was at Palo Alto Fire's Stanford Station for a monthly membership meeting, the San Jose Fire Department was dispatched to 780 Commercial Street for reports of an explosion and multiple gas canisters on fire. When the news of the blaze reached members via their "PulsePoint" application, John Whitaker kept an ear to his radio just in case the fire went to multiple alarms.
First-arriving firefighters found that the explosion had involved Acetylene, Oxygen, and Propane tanks used for welding. The tanks were located on the exterior of large, tilt-up concrete building occupied by "The Lloyd E. Williams Pipe Trades Training Center". In addition to the approximately 24 exterior tanks, the fire slightly penetrated the structure through a skylight, but was kept in check by the building's fire sprinklers. The firefighting operation quickly became a mainly defensive operation with the goal of cooling the tanks while allowing the gas to burn off.
With most of the FASCV membership in Palo Alto, John Whiteside had volunteered to stay back in the South County in anticipation of just such a need for assistance. In an example of  "Proper Prior Planning", John's sense of responsibility paid off! 
Once the fire went to 3 alarms, John Whiteside left his home for SJFD Station 6 to get Fire Support Unit 2. In the meantime, John Whitaker left the membership meeting and went directly to the fire scene. He made contact with San Jose's Med30 (Capt. Tim Miller on his first night in that assignment) and a location for rehab was scouted out. When FSU-2 arrived, an informal rehab area was set up with lots of hot coffee brewed on a chilly night. When the membership meeting was adjourned, other FASCV members came to the fireground to assist. Those on scene included Bruce Dembecki, Mike Garcia, Bill Roth, and Kenny Needham (guest).
Part way through the incident, it was discovered that the SJFD Truck 1 crew had not yet had their dinner. So, 10 burrito dinners were ordered up and Bruce left to do a minimal meal run. Along about 11:30 P.M. the operation became a wait-and-see effort as the gas burned off and the majority of crews (including FSU-2) were released to return to quarters.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker