A little after noon on Sunday, Jan. 3, San Jose Fire dispatchers received multiple reports of a house on fire on S. 10th Street. Initial reports included one that an elderly resident had been carried from the residence and was unconscious on the ground outside the home with others going into the structure to retrieve a second elderly resident. With Med 30 reporting smoke visible from Station 30, and the report of rescues in progress with residents needing medical assistance, Battalion 1 escalated the incident to a second alarm before units had arrived on scene.
With reports of at least 2 injuries and more people inside, an EMS Task Force was summoned to the scene, bringing 3 ambulances, an EMS Field Supervisor, and the EMS Duty Chief to the scene. Working under Med 30 as Medical Group, together with an Engine company, they were able to quickly start treatment on the two residents.
Due to a heavy fuel load inside the home, the fire was very hot. More than one captain inside the residence reported that the screens of their thermal imaging cameras had gone white. Early attempts to search the 2nd story were unsuccessful due to lack of visibility and heat. Firefighters attempting to vent the roof reported the roof was becoming rapidly spongy and were ordered off the roof.
Suddenly, the radios blared with a distress call. A firefighter had fallen through some stairs into the floor below. Some initial confusion over exactly which stairs had failed, and where the firefighter was, were quickly overcome when the firefighter was able to exit the building on his own and was escorted to the medical group for evaluation.
With conditions going from bad to worse, a third alarm was struck at 12:41 P.M. -- only 26 minutes after the initial call was received. With the 3rd Alarm came pager notifications to Fire Associates members that their assistance was needed in Rehab. Fire Associates member Bruce Dembecki responded to the incident, picking up Fire Support Unit 2 on the way.
Crews were eventually able to complete a primary search on the second floor. There was also a basement, but with a damaged stairway it was not possible to conduct a search until much later in the afternoon.
With the residents having been transported to hospital, and the firefighter released to resume duties on the fireground, the Medical group had switched to Rehab by the time Fire Support Unit 2 arrived on the scene. FSU-2 joined the Rehab section and set up hydration and some much needed Cliff bars. One nearby Chief later said the Cliff Bars were being “inhaled” by hungry firefighters, some of whom had not had the opportunity to have lunch before this incident began.
After a cool down period had been conducted, and firefighters cycled through Rehab, an overhaul plan was prepared and Bruce was sent to arrange meals for the remaining crews. Around 3:30 P.M., crews finally got to have lunch and 30 burritos disappeared before our eyes. Fire Support Unit 2 was released at approximately 5:00 P.M. and was packed up and back in quarters by 5:30 P.M.
-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki