Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fire Associates Called to Scene of Fatal San Jose Fire

Photo By Bruce Dembecki
Around 11:00 P.M. on December 29, San Jose Fire Department received reports of an apartment ablaze with people trapped at 3679 Bridgeport Court in West San Jose. With reports of multiple people inside the burning apartment responding units upgraded the incident to a second alarm before the first units were on scene. County EMS was also asked to respond an Ambulance Task force to the scene. First units on scene reported the second story apartment fully engulfed and attempted to enter the unit in search of those reported missing. The fire drove back firefighters who reported the apartment conditions as untenable.
A police officer and three residents were treated for smoke inhalation injuries suffered attempting a rescue. The blaze was contained to the building of origin, and was under control soon after midnight. Sadly a man, woman and child perished in the blaze. 56 people were displaced by the blaze and by 3:00 A.M. were in the hands of the Red Cross.

Incident Commander B/C Barry Stallard summoned Fire Associates to the scene around 11:50 P.M. as a special call. It was clear the operation would be extended and outside conditions were close to freezing. Bruce Dembecki responded with Fire Support Unit 2 from San Jose Fire Station 6 and was met on scene by George Hoyt, Jerry Haag, Dan Wong with his guest Dominic Soder, and guest Walter Huber. 
Access to the small suburban court was blocked by a 5" supply line. Rehab was established down the court so the Fire Associates crew schlepped supplies and equipment into the scene, setting up lighting on the end of a long power cord run. Coffee and other hot drinks were popular in the near freezing weather. FSU 2 was released by 3:00 A.M.
-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Morning "Surprise" for Fire Associates

Date and Time: 12-25-2012, 0535 hours
Agency: Santa Clara County Fire
Incident Address: 1624 Dell Ave., Campbell
Type: Third alarm

Details: Christmas morning, approximately 20,000 sq. ft., non-sprinklered, concrete tilt-up industrial building with wood roof. Occupied by a solar industry company. Heavily involved upon arrival of first unit, Engine 10. Two elevated master streams utilized after going defensive. Three long 5" supply lines laid.
It was a chilly night. Nine pots of fresh-ground Starbucks coffee were supplied by Ron Green, premier coffee maker. Four dozen donuts were supplied by John Whiteside. This was perhaps the last big fire commanded by B/C Bob Smith before retirement after more than 40 years of service.

Agency Responders:
CNT: E-3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11; T-1, 3; R-3, 17; BS-2; HM-2; Batt. 2, 14; IC-Batt. 3 (B/C B. Smith)
SJS: E-14, 17; T-9; Batt-10

FASCV Responding Units: FSU-1 and FSU-3. Arrived: 0600, released: 0830 hours.
FASCV Responders: Ron Green, Jerry Haag (driver), George Hoyt, Jill Levy, John Whiteside (driver), Lan Williams and Dan Wong.

-- Report submitted by Jerry Haag

Thursday, November 22, 2012

FASCV Called to Thanksgiving Day Fire In San Jose

Photo By John Whitaker
There's a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving Day. One thing to add to your list for next year -- be thankful your residence didn't burn down on Thanksgiving Day.
That was not the case for several families in a San Jose condominium complex this past Thursday.
On Thanksgiving Day evening, at approximately 8:25 P.M., the San Jose Fire Department was called to 938 Willowleaf Drive for an attic fire. First-arriving fire crews reported flames were already through the roof. This prompted a quick call for a second alarm, followed by a request for a third alarm and mutual aid.
Fire Associates members also sprung into action. Don Gilbert responded to San Jose Station 6 to get Fire Support Unit 2, while John Whitaker and his son Jeff, who was visiting for the holiday, headed to the fire scene. They were later joined by FASCV members Dan Wong and George Hoyt. Upon arrival, a rehab area was quickly established on a lawn area adjacent to the involved structure.

Photo By John Whitaker
Initially, most of the fire was in the common attic space. As firefighters began with an interior attack, the flames spread down into the living space on the second floor of the townhouse unit. When the ceilings began to collapse, some of the drywall fell onto firefighters who were advancing up the interior staircase. Two firefighters were injured with one firefighter requiring hospitalization. A vacate order was quickly given and the operation moved into a defensive mode.
Although most firefighters were full of turkey and all the trimmings, they were still glad to have cold water, Gatorade, Clif bars and hot coffee available in Rehab. Rehab was in operation until most crews were released at approximately 11:00 P.M.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mountain View Fire Dept. Calls for FASCV Assistance

Date and Time: 11-11-2012, 0353 hours
Agency: Mountain View

Incident Address: 722 Sonia Way, Mountain View
Type: Second alarm

Agency Responders:
MTV: E-1, 2, 3, 4, 5; T-1; R-1; IC-Batt. 18 (B/C Owen)
PAF: R-2, BS-2, Batt-6
MOF: T-6

Details: Small, single-story, frame dwelling. Heavily involved upon arrival of first unit. The single occupant, who was also the RP, self-evacuated on advice of dispatcher. He reportedly told the dispatcher he was trying to light his fireplace. It was a cold night.
FASCV Responding Unit: FSU-1. Arrived: 0430, released: 0555 hours.
FASCV Responders: Haag (driver), Green. 

-- Report submitted by Jerry Haag

Saturday, November 10, 2012

FASCV Goes to 2nd Alarm Blaze in Santa Clara

Date and Time: 11-10-2012, 1452 hours
Agency: Santa Clara City
Incident Address: 2215 Capistrano Drive, Santa Clara
Type: Second alarm

Details: Large, two-story, frame dwelling. Good save, rebuildable.

FASCV Responding Unit: FSU-1. Arrived: 1545, released: 1900 hours.
FASCV Responders: Len (driver), Green, Haag, Walter Huber (Guest).

-- Report submitted by Jerry Haag

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Saratoga Fire Escalates into A Second Alarm Incident

Photo By John Whitaker
A word to the wise: When doing your own re-roofing job, don't burn the old shingles in your outdoor fireplace.

This would have been good advice for the residents of a Saratoga house that burned on Wednesday, November 7. Just before 4:00 P.M., Fire Associates was paged by Santa Clara County Fire to a blaze at 14391 Quito Rd. First-arriving firefighters reported an active fire on the roof and the incident quickly went to a 2nd alarm. Sparks from the BBQ/incinerator had ignited the roof of the ranch-style home.

Responding for FASCV were John Whitaker and John Whiteside in Fire Support Unit 2. The Support Unit approached the scene from the south after negotiating a long, winding stretch of the narrow, mostly rural roadway lined with some exclusive homes. The FSU was met on scene by members Jerry Haag, George Hoyt and guest, Walter Huber.
Photo By John Whitaker

Firefighters were faced with several obstacles in reaching the fire. The sprawling, 3,800 square-foot residence was located up a narrow driveway and was well off the main street. County Engines 8 and 3 were positioned on the driveway with all other arriving units staged out on the street. This necessitated the arriving Sheriff's officers to completely block off the road to all non-emergency traffic.

Fortunately, a hydrant was located directly opposite the residence and a 5-inch supply line was snaked up the steep driveway to the two engine companies. Even with the efficient efforts of the fire crews on hand, damage was extensive to a majority of the structure's wood shake roof.

Rehab was set up at the base of the driveway on the property of an adjoining neighbor. With the quickly approaching darkness, and fire crews putting out the remaining hot spots, lighting the Rehab area was a first priority. All four of our FSU's scene lights were used, with one of the portable tripod lights used to remotely light a very dark stairway that lead down the hill from the home to the Rehab area.

The second priority was getting some cold water and Gatorade to hot and tired firefighters. This was done with the assistance of County EMS paramedics who helped to ferry the bottles of liquid up the hill. As the effort wound down into overhaul mode, crews were released into Rehab and burritos were provided as a hot meal. Fire Support Unit 2 was released after the last of the crews were fed and was back in quarters at approximately 8:30 P.M.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker

Saturday, November 3, 2012

FASCV Members Attend Van Wormer Funeral

Photo By John Whitaker
On Saturday morning, November 3, several members of Fire Associates attended the funeral of Cal Fire Battalion Chief, Rob Van Wormer. Several FASCV members worked with Rob in the Volunteers In Prevention (VIP) program at the Morgan Hill headquarters of the Santa Clara Unit (SCU). The 47-year-old battalion chief died unexpectedly on Saturday evening, Oct. 27, while on assignment in Santa Cruz, CA. He was in Santa Cruz working on an investigation when he lost consciousness and was rushed to a local hospital.
Because of an expected large turn out from family, friends and members of dozens of fire services throughout the state, the funeral was held at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. FASCV members known to be attending the service were Bruce Dembecki, Mike Chappell, John Whitaker and John Whiteside. Our Fire Support Unit 2 was brought to join with dozens of fire rigs in attendance to show their support for the family and respect for a fellow firefighter.
The casket was brought to the service atop the San Jose Fire Museum's 1931 Mack fire engine. Its use was requested by the family through Cal Fire and the San Jose Fire Department. The funeral procession left Oak Hill Cemetery, traveled down Monterey Rd. and then proceeded through a gauntlet of fire rigs before entering the HP Pavilion. It was quite a memorable sight as all the rigs had their Code 3 lights activated and the fire crews were standing in salute.
We join with others to extend our deepest condolences to Rob's family, friends and everyone at Cal Fire. RIP Chief Van Wormer.
  • John Whitaker's photos from the funeral can be viewed at:  Rob Van Wormer
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Spell of 3-Fires-In-1-Day Livens Up October

After a period of no activity during the middle of the month of October, that all changed for Fire Associates members on Sunday, October 28. Read on...

San Jose Condos:
Photo By Craig Allyn Rose
The San Jose Fire Department was the first to request our aid. During the early morning hours, a fire broke out in a garage complex attached to a row of seven, two-story condominiums. The first-arriving engine company reported that a garage was on fire at 3131 Creekside Drive in San Jose's Berryessa neighborhood. By the time the fire crew had positioned the engine and deployed their hose lines, the single garage fire had spread to 3 garages. A second alarm was immediately called and the increasing inferno eventually grew into a 4-alarm event. Only the two end-unit condos and garages escaped fire damage, but all units experienced some water or smoke damage.

Fire Associates was paged at 8:02 A.M. John Whitaker had been listening on his emergency scanner and immediately responded in Fire Support Unit 2. He was joined on scene by Ron Green, George Hoyt and Mike Chappell. Because the narrow streets in the area were lined with parked cars, fire apparatus were filling the streets when FSU 2 arrived on scene. The Support Unit was positioned several hundred yards from the Rehab location and all food and beverages had to be walked to the location.

Photo By John Whitaker
As the firefighting efforts wound down, Rehab became a very busy place. All four portable, 6-man benches (ours and the two off SJFD Med 30) were quickly filled with tired firefighters. A folding table was set up to serve coffee and nutrition bars with the coffee being made at the Support Unit and then transferred into air pots.
John returned FSU 2 to quarters at Station 6 just before noon.
 -- Report submitted by John Whitaker

San Jose House Fire:
The day's second call for assistance came at 9:32 P.M., just as the San Francisco Giants were wrapping up their World Series sweep of the Detroit Tigers.
A house was on fire on San Jose's east side...and the 3-alarm fire was threatening to spread to adjacent structures. John Whiteside responded in FSU 3 and submitted this report:
"I was watching TV as the local team was celebrating its World Series championship, and listening to my fire scanner. The San Jose Fire Department was fighting a residential fire in east-central San Jose at 10292 Murtha Drive at South White Road. As the fire escalated in alarm levels, I prepared to respond to the scene with a Fire Support Unit. When the third alarm trigger was reached, I notified Sonitrol, our answering service, for the response page and responded to SJS Station 35 to take FSU 3 to the scene -- going en route at 2130 hours.
At the scene, I was joined by members Bruce Dembecki, Ron Green, George Hoyt and guest, Walter Huber. Bottled water, Gatorade, lemonade and CLIF bars and were provided, as well as 2 folding bench sets for the firefighters in Rehab. Around 2300 hours, some fire units on scene were re-dispatched to a minor fire at a local high school. FSU 3 was released and returned to quarters by 2330 hours."
-- Report submitted by John Whiteside
San Jose's 3rd Fire:

Photo By Craig Allyn Rose

On Monday morning, October 29, the third multi-alarm fire in San Jose in less than 24 hours occurred in a large, abandoned structure.  Located at 19600 Almaden Road, the fire consumed the former home of the Almaden Valley Gymnastics Club. Don Gilbert felt that it was his turn to take a support unit, so he drove Fire Support Unit 2 to its second fire of the day.
The very large, concrete tilt up structure was fully ablaze when fire crews arrived. The building had been abandoned since the successful Club had been disbanded in 2006 after 32 years of existence. A San Jose City redevelopment sign out in front of the property stated that the lot was to be the site of several new, single-family homes. Firefighters began an interior attack on the fire, but retreated after reporting swimming pools and several water-filled landing pits inside the building. A master stream off Truck 13 was set up in front of the building and hose lines were extended along the sides of the fire towards the rear. Although the exterior walls were concrete, the wide open floor area was spanned by large timbers that provided fuel to the fire and threatened to collapse as the incident progressed.
Photo By John Whitaker
Fire Associates set up on the shoulder of Almaden Road, directly in front of the incident. It was a very foggy, fall morning and firefighters enjoyed several pots of hot coffee. As the morning commute traffic picked up in the area, Rehab was broken down at approximately 8:30 A.M.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker

Saturday, October 13, 2012

FASCV Provides Assistance at Sunnyvale Blaze

At approximately 1:10 P.M. on Saturday, October 13, FASCV President Bob Gundrum was departing a shopping center at the intersection of Lawrence Expressway and Lakehaven Drive in Sunnyvale. Not normally something we write about in this blog, but when he observed a large column of smoke rising above the shopping center, it became an item of interest.
As Bob described the scene, "...1017 Lakehaven, a single-level single-family dwelling, was 3 lots north of the (shopping center) driveway and the garage area was well involved as I drove past. Noticing a hydrant on the corner of Lakehaven and Lakemuir, I parked well clear of the hydrant."
Photo By David Thompson
Bob immediately set about to provide some logistical assistance to the arriving fire crews.
A phone discussion with long-time FASCV member Len Williams indicated that the organization had been requested from the field and that Len would be bringing the support unit. In the meantime, members Dan Wong and Jerry Haag arrived and provided water that they had in their personal vehicles. FSU 1 did arrive on the scene and provided Rehab assistance until it was released at 4:20 P.M.
Sunnyvale fire apparatus on the scene were:

Engines - 1, 2, 4, 40, 5, 6 and 60
Trucks - 1 and 2
Rescue - 2
IC - Lt. A.J. Berrien (Battalion 20)
A special call was made for Santa Clara City Fire - Rescue 2 (for breathing support).
FASCV Members present were: Ron Green, Bob Gundrum, Jerry Haag, George Hoyt, Mike Wagner, Len Williams, Dan Wong and Guest, Walter Huber.
-- Report submitted by Bob Gundrum

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

FASCV Joins Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Relay


“What was all that noise?” ...that’s what many San Francisco Bay Area residents must have been saying as a caravan of emergency vehicles made their way up the Peninsula on Thursday, October 4th.
With “Code 3” lights and sirens blaring, a fleet of approximately 20 antique, classic and in-service emergency response vehicles joined the 23rd Annual Peninsula Firefighters Burn Relay. The event benefited the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation (AARBF). The non-profit organization is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of burn survivors and promoting burn prevention education in the community.

Fire Support Units 1 and 2 are lined up next to a
Moffet Field Fire Battalion Chief vehicle.
Along the relay route, the Burn Foundation collected donations raised by local fire and public safety agencies. Money was raised through personal donations and annual community events, including golf tournaments, pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners. Stops were made at 16 fire stations in Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco Counties.

Starting at 8:30 A.M., members of fire departments and emergency response agencies worked their way up the Peninsula. The convoy started at the Moffett Field Fire Department and traveled nearly 40 miles north, ending at the San Francisco Fire Department Training Center at the corner of 19th and Folsom. Fire Associates was asked by event organizers to join this year’s relay to provide cold water and Gatorade to the events’ participants. In response to this request, Fire Support Units 1 and 2 joined in the activities.

During the day, a light breakfast was served at the Moffett Field Fire Department, mid-morning refreshments were provided at the Menlo Park Fire Department, lunch was served at Foster City Fire Station No. 28, an ice cream social was held at Colma Fire Station No. 85, and dinner was provided by the San Francisco Black Firefighters Organization.

Burn Relay Emergency Vehicles proceed up The El Camino.
By the end of the relay, $66,125 was raised to support the many programs of the Southern California-based organization. Programs benefiting from these funds include the Foundation’s annual week-long residential camp for child burn survivors, Champ Camp.

Alisa Ann Ruch was a young Southern California girl who was burned over 97% of her body and lived only 5 weeks in the hospital. Following her death in 1971, her mother joined with firefighters and medical professionals to create a foundation to prevent burn injuries by teaching "Stop, Drop and Roll." Since the Foundation started, other burn-related services have been added not only in Southern California, but Northern and Central California as well.

For more information on the organization, please visit

Saturday, October 6, 2012

PayPal Added to Fire Associates Donation Options

You may have noticed a change to the left-hand column of the Fire Associates blog (when viewing on a computer).
Fire Associates has added a PayPal account to the available options for donating to our all-volunteer organization. Donors can now contribute to FASCV using a credit card through the PayPal link on our blog.
When on your computer, scroll down our blog page and you'll see the "Donate" button on the left. Mobile device viewers must scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the "View Web Version" link.
Give it a try, if you wish (we never turn down donations!).
As the donor, you will receive an e-mail confirming the details of the donation. This will serve as your tax record. Remember, FASCV is a non-profit, tax deductible organization per Federal tax code, Section 501(c)4.
As the PayPal client, FASCV will receive an e-mail notifying us of the donation and confirming the transfer of money to FASCV's checking account.
Thanks goes to our Blogmaster, John Whitaker and Treasurer, Cliff Smith for working on this donation option.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Firefighters Tackle A Structure Fire On A Very Hot Day

Photo By John Whitaker
The members of Fire Associates don't get too many requests for assistance at fires that involve small, detached sheds. But, on this very hot, hot, hot day, the 1:46 P.M. call for our help on Wednesday, Oct. 3 made perfect sense.
With temperatures hovering right around the 100-degree mark, the fire quickly spread to a near-by perimeter fence, power pole and palm tree. The fire involved structures behind two residences at 5180 and 5190 Leigh Ave. - near its intersection with Los Gatos Almaden Road.
John Whiteside was listening to the incident on his emergency scanner and called San Jose Fire Dispatch to see if FASCV could be of assistance in Rehab. The reply from the IC was "Yes", so John responded in Fire Support Unit 3 and then put out a page that he was going to the fire. Responding to that message were FASCV members George Hoyt and John Whitaker.
Photo By John Whitaker
Rehab was set up on Leigh Ave. just across the wide street from the fire's location. Before FSU-3 arrived, firefighters had already staked out a Rehab site on a lawn area under a large tree. The cool grass and adequate shade provided a perfect rest area for hot and weary crews. Cold water, lemonade and Gatorade were high on the list of priorities as rehydration became a primary concern. In addition to these liquids, firefighters also enjoyed some banana bread provided the the homeowner at the Rehab location.  
Complicating the overhaul process was the fire's proximity to Leigh High School. Located across the intersection from the fire, students were leaving the school shortly after the fire began and had to be steered around the rehab area. This, in addition to parents driving into the area to pick up their students, made traffic control a little more challenging than usual. Fire Associates members broke from their usual Rehab duties and assisted with the traffic situation.

FSU-3 was released from service at approximately 4:15 P.M.
-- Report Submitted By John Whitaker

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Milpitas Kitchen Fire Causes Fire Associates Response

It was Tuesday morning, October 2, when the Milpitas Fire Department put out a request for Fire Associates. Located at 456 N Abbott Avenue, an apparent stove top fire had spread into the kitchen cabinets and up into the attic space. Don Gilbert responded to the 10:12 A.M. call in Fire Support Unit 2. He was joined on scene by FASCV member Dan Wong.

Don reported that the fire probably would have stayed at a single alarm had it not been for the very warm weather. The Santa Clara Valley has been going through a spell of very hot weather and temperatures were climbing as the sun rose in the sky on this early Fall morning. Fire crews were hot and tired when cold water and Gatorade were provided in the Rehab area. Milpitas and Fremont fire crews were on hand to attack the 2-alarm blaze.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Warehouse Burns to the Ground in San Jose

Photo By John Whitaker
The last week of September continued to be busy for Fire Associates as we were called to a warehouse fire north of downtown San Jose. The request for help came from San Jose Fire Department dispatchers at 2:45 P.M. on Saturday, September 29. The 2-alarm fire was burning in a warehouse at 435 E. Hedding Street. Don Gilbert and John Whitaker responded in Fire Support Unit 2 while FASCV members Jerry Haag, George Hoyt, Mike Wagner, Dan Wong and guest, Walter Huber, met them on scene.

The warehouse was fully involved when firefighters arrived and the firefighting effort went defensive immediately. Truck 30 set up a master stream on the east side of the warehouse while Truck 1 set up their "stick" on the west side. From that point on, it was a matter of flooding the seemingly abandoned Allied Container Corporation warehouse and protecting some nearby apartment complexes. Complicating the effort was a Union Pacific railroad line on the west side of the structure and a rail siding on the east side.
Photo By John Whitaker
An informal rehab area was set up on N. 10th Street with cold water and Gatorade in demand. Although the effort was defensive, firefighters were hot and tired on a very warm afternoon. With the structure mostly burned to the ground, very little overhaul was required and rehab was broken down and FSU-2 released shortly after 4:00 P.M.
-- Report Submitted by John Whitaker

Friday, September 28, 2012

Third San Jose Fire In Four Days Keeps Fire Associates Busy

Photo By Craig Allyn Rose
In a neighborhood where all of the homes have cedar shake roofs, the almost inevitable fire is bound to happen. That was the case on the morning of Friday, September 28, when a house fire at 1689 Mulberry Lane caused a 2-alarm response from the San Jose Fire Department. A fire that possibly began in either the attic space or on the roof was threatening to spread to adjoining homes when the first firefighters arrived on scene.
With that threat, and a fully involved wood shake roof ablaze, a second alarm was quickly called. At the same time, a response from Fire Associates was also requested. Don Gilbert responded in Fire Support Unit 2 while John Whitaker immediately headed to the scene. They were later joined by George Hoyt, Dan Wong, Bruce Dembecki and FASCV guest, Walter Huber.
Although the involved home was heavily damaged, a Herculean effort by firefighters kept the fire from spreading into the neighborhood of upscale, single-story, ranch-style homes. After an initial search, it was determined that all occupants were out of the house. At that point, crews could concentrate on extinguishing the blazing roof and protecting the exposures. Many tired and dirty firefighters passed through the Rehab area as the fire evolved into overhaul mode.
Photo By John Whitaker
Fire Support Unit 2 was able to set up directly in front of the residence and Rehab was established in a neighbor's semi-circular driveway. Upon arrival of FSU-2, benches were the first item to be set up followed by tables for coffee service and a few dozen bagels provided by an off-duty fireman. With the fire call coming in an hour before 8:00 A.M. shift change, no one had eaten breakfast before being called to the scene. And, judging by the very crowded Rehab area, the food was well-appreciated.
With only a few fire crews remaining on scene for final overhaul and awaiting board-up, Rehab was broken down shortly after 10:00 A.M. and FSU-2 returned to quarters at SJFD Station 6.
- Report Submitted by John Whitaker

Thursday, September 27, 2012

San Jose Calls 2nd Alarm for Mobile Home Fire

Photo By Juan Diaz
The San Jose Fire Department once again requested service from Fire Associates on Thursday, September 27. The 5:00 P.M. call was for assistance at a mobile home fire in the Magic Sands park at 165 Blossom Hill Road. The 2-alarm fire was located just 2 blocks from SJFD Station 35, the "home" of Fire Support Unit 3. John Whiteside brought FSU-3 to the fire scene where he was met by FASCV member John Whitaker. Also arriving were George Hoyt, Dan Wong and Walter Huber (guest).

The fire was burning in the rear bedroom of a double-wide mobile home in Space 125 on Oasis Drive. First-arriving fire units reported flames rolling out of the rear bedroom windows. There was immediate exposure concerns as another mobile home on the "Charlie" side of the fire was being threatened. Firefighters made good progress in keeping the fire confined to the rear of the structure and minimizing damage to the adjacent home.

Photo By John Whitaker
Fire Associates established an informal rehab area at the intersection of Oasis Drive and Bagdad Way - directly across from the fire's location. On a warm, early Fall day, firefighters were glad to have some cold lemonade, water and Gatorade to quench their thirst. Clif Bars were also provided until rehab was broken down shortly after 7:00 P.M.
-- Report Submitted by John Whitaker

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

FASCV "Johnny-On-the-Spot" at San Jose Blaze

Photo By John Whitaker
(Note: The following is a first-hand report from "The Blogmaster" John Whitaker. The following is, for lack of a better term, the anatomy of a Fire Associates response. Many readers of this blog may not be aware of the coordination needed during the execution of our tasks. If you fall into that category, this should prove interesting.)
On the evening of Tuesday, September 25, I was sitting at my computer doing some work. As is typical of many Fire Associates members, I was monitoring the fire radio channels quietly on my emergency scanner as I worked. The time was 7:09 P.M. and I was just about to go downstairs to prepare some dinner.
Usually, the "noise" of the scanner is just in the background, but, all of a sudden, I heard some key information:
"Engine 31, Engine 24, Engine 11, Truck 16 and Battalion 2, a garage fire at 3156 Midhurst Court. Report of a garage on fire with possible people trapped."
Well, that got my attention because those three engine companies all respond into my Evergreen neighborhood. I immediately went to my upstairs window, looked to the north, and there (about a mile away) was a large column of smoke with a tell-tail orange glow at the base. Since, this was the condition right at the time of the dispatch, I knew that this was going to be a serious fire!

I returned to my computer and sent out a "heads up" message to all Fire Associates drivers giving the location of the incident and alerting them to the possibility of a response. I then changed clothes into my normal response "uniform" and headed for my car. Several minutes had passed by this time and I could hear Engine 11's siren as they responded down San Felipe Road from their nearby station.

Photo By John Whitaker
As I drove towards the fire, I could see other responding SJFD units arriving at the scene ahead of me. By this time, the battalion chief had put out a Second Alarm request due to the "smoke showing" report from several fire rigs that were en route. Traffic was heavy because, between my house and the incident, was Evergreen Valley Community College and a medium-size shopping center. As I was responding, FASCV member John Whiteside phoned me and said that he was standing by and would bring Fire Support Unit 3 in case we were need.
I decided to approach the fire from the neighborhood to the east of the incident as I anticipated that most fire equipment would be coming into the scene off San Felipe Rd., to the west. As I turned the corner at San Felipe Road and Delta Road, flames were licking over the pre-fab concrete wall that separated the burning home from the sidewalk along Delta. It was hot as I drove quickly by!
I parked my car about a block away from the fire and immediately sought out Battalion 2, who, on this A-shift evening, was Chuck Rangel. I asked Chuck if he wanted a support unit and the reply was, "Yes." I then called John Whiteside and told him to respond.
At this point, I went looking for Med30, Mike Van Elgort, to find out the location of Rehab. Mike was very busy statusing the health condition of the home's occupants and asked me to scout out a suitable location. I found a spot on the corner of Midhurst Court and Midhurst Way and coordinated the location with Med30 and the Rural-Metro EMS crews who had responded. That's right - "crews" - plural. Early reports had the possibility of 4 occupants trapped in the home, so a request for an EMS task force was made by the IC. That brought several EMS units and a Rural-Metro supervisor. As it turned out, several residents were home, but all made it out safely on their own.
Photo By John Whitaker
At this point, there was not much more I could do besides waiting for the arrival of the FSU. So, being the "Blogmaster", I started taking photos for use in this article. It was an interesting scene with a lot of fire equipment packed into a cramped little cul-de-sac. First-arriving firefighters had made a good knockdown by this time and the fire was not nearly as spectacular as it had been early on. The home had a 30-year-old wood shake roof and a very large attic space that was filled with lots of stored items. This all made for a heavy fuel load for the fire.
By the time the support unit arrived, FASCV guest Walter Huber was on scene and we were joined later by members George Hoyt and Mike Chappel. We got to work quickly and made a couple of pots of coffee and put out cold water and Gatorade along with our usual Clif Bars. As the crews were leaving, many took advantage of our "provisions" and expressed their gratitude for our presence.
With only one fire rig remaining on scene for "Fire Watch", rehab was disbanded at approximately 10:00 PM. We all left and I returned home to finally have some of that dinner I was going to prepare.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

San Jose Condo Fire Requires Quick Action

Photo By John Whitaker
On Tuesday morning, September 18, while most FASCV members were sound asleep at 5:09 A.M., the morning's silence was broken by a pager message from the San Jose Fire Department. A condo unit was on fire at 671 Yolo Court, near the intersection of Capitol Expressway and Narvaez Ave. in the heart of the Valley. With several FASCV members initially slowed by some confusion with the location specified in the pager message, John Whiteside volunteered to drive Fire Support Unit 3 to the scene of the 2-alarm blaze.

Located at the end of a narrow cul-de-sac, SJFD Truck 13 was the first arriving rig. Initial reports were of a person trapped, so the crew immediately went into rescue mode. All but one resident had escaped from the structure, but a woman was still on the condo's wooden balcony. With help from the SJPD, she was brought to a safe location while additional fire companies began the fire attack. The fully involved unit was one of eight in the building. Because of firefighters' quick action, the only loss of life was one of two dogs owned by the resident. Fire crews held the blaze to the initial upstairs unit, with the lower unit suffering water damage. Power to the building was shut off, which required several residents to accept the offer of a place to stay from the American Red Cross.

Photo By John Whitaker
This call to Fire Associates was a good example of what it sometimes takes to get a Fire Support Unit on scene.

Somehow, after SJFD Dispatch called our paging service with the location of the incident, the page that went out attributed the call to "SNC", which most FASCV members recognize as the tri-graph for the Santa Clara City Fire Dept. This was an innocent mistake, but it led to a couple of responders initially not responding, since they lived in South San Jose. But, when a second page did not come out (saying that a Support Unit was being taken) in a timely manner, John Whitaker and John Whiteside both made phone inquiries to the paging service. By that time, Jerry Haag had indicated that he would take Support Unit 1. John Whiteside phoned Jerry and suggested that he could get FSU-3 there faster. So, Jerry backed off taking FSU-1 and went in his personal vehicle directly to the scene where he was met by John Whitaker, George Hoyt and Walter Huber (guest).

It should be pointed out that this sort of mistake happens VERY rarely. But, it helps to point out the complexity of getting support to a fire scene. It all hinges on the accuracy of the information we receive. And, the ability and willingness to communicate between members is a vital part of what we do in order to respond.

As it always works out, FASCV once again provided service to a bunch of tired firefighters. Several pots of hot coffee, lots of water and Gatorade, and a box of Clif Bars was again provided as a "Firefighter's Breakfast". FSU-3 was released from the incident at approximately 9:30 A.M.
  • John Whitaker's photos can be viewed at:  Condo Fire
  • A San Jose Mercury News story can be read at:  8-plex Blaze
-- Report Submitted By John Whitaker

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mountain View Fire Requests FASCV Help

Date and Time: Sept. 15, 2012; Alarm: 1718, Page: 1738
Agency: Mountain View Fire
Incident Address: 2260 Wyandotte St., Mountain View
Type: Second alarm
Details: Two-story, framed, four-plex. Fire held to single upstairs unit and some attic involvement. 11 persons displaced, 2 transported to hospital. 25 hamburgers from In'N'Out were served to the firefighters.
Agency Responders:
MTV: E-1, 3, 4, 5; T-1; R-1; IC-Batt. 18 (Capt. Walls)
PAF: E-4, T-6, R-2, BS-2, Batt-6
FASCV Responding Unit: FSU-1. Arrived: 1800, released: 2145 hours.
FASCV Responders: Jerry Haag (driver), Ron Green, Dan Wong, Larry Carr, Len Williams ad Walter Huber (guest).

-- Report Submitted By Jerry Haag

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Big Rig Fire Spreads to Highway 17 Hillside

Photo By John Whitaker
Where were you just before midnight on Wednesday, September 5th? Fire Associates members were near the summit of Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz Mountains as a tanker truck burned to the ground!
At 11:22 P.M., the Santa Clara County Fire Department called for FASCV's assistance on Highway 17 as it winds its way towards Santa Cruz. Don Gilbert and John Whitaker responded in Fire Support Unit 2. With all lanes of the 4-lane highway totally shut down, Don and John had to bring FSU-2 southbound in the northbound lanes from the Redwood Estates turn-off to the fire scene. Although deemed "safe" it is always an odd-feeling experience to be going the wrong way down a divided roadway. They were joined on scene by FASCV members George Hoyt and Dan Wong, along with Walter Huber (guest).

Located in the southbound lanes, about one-half mile north of the Summit Road overpass, a semi-truck was on fire. The uninjured driver reported that a fire began in the engine compartment of the near-new Freightliner tractor. Before fire crews could arrive, the rig's cab had burned to the ground -- literally! The big-rig was owned by Praxair and was transporting a load of liquid nitrogen "over the hill". Although singed, the large, insulated tank was not compromised and the load remained fully contained.
Photo By John Whitaker
Meanwhile, the blaze spread into the wildland along the shoulder of the mountainous highway. Using the dense brush and trees as fuel, the fire quickly raced up the 60-degree slope. Arriving County Fire crews were face with a diesel truck fully ablaze, and a wildland fire racing up a steep hill in the middle of the night. They were joined in the firefighting effort by Cal Fire units from CZU (Santa Cruz) and SCU (Santa Clara) as well as a Cal Fire camp crew from Ben Lomond. Additional water was provided by a water tender from the Loma Prieta Volunteers. A mutual aid request also went out for help from the San Jose Fire Department and a request was made for an EMS Task Force from Rural-Metro Ambulance. They provided 3 EMS units and an EMS supervisor.

With middle-of-the-night temperatures in the low 60s, and no wind, fire crews actually enjoyed some good firefighting weather. FASCV provided cold drinks, Clif Bars and the ever-popular donuts. With the blaze under control, and Cal Fire crews awaiting the arrival of a big-rig tow truck, Fire Associates was released at approximately 2:15 A.M.
--- Report submitted by John Whitaker

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cathedral Fire Challeges San Jose Firefighters

Photo By Bruce Dembecki
At 11:40 A.M. on Thursday, August 30, Fire Associates responded to a fire at St. Patrick's Cathedral. The midday blaze challenged San Jose firefighters with their third multiple alarm fire in 36 hours. John Whiteside responded in Fire Support Unit 3 simultaneously with Don Gilbert who was responding in Fire Support Unit 2. With FSU-2 able to respond more quickly, FSU-3 was cancelled en route.
Located at 389 E. Santa Clara St., at its busy intersection with 8th Street, the fire was spotted soon after it started. However, the fire quickly spread up into the open, vaulted rafters of the cathedral's sanctuary. The room reportedly filled with dense, black smoke making the fire difficult to fight.

To complicate matters, as the fire fight was winding down, one of the crew members of Truck 1 suffered cardiac arrest, requiring quick and immediate attention from other firefighters and paramedics on the scene. He was transported by a Rural-Metro EMS Unit to Regional Medical Center. However, those remaining on the scene were visibly shaken by the incident. Many were released from the incident and were replaced on scene by fresh firefighters.
The warm afternoon, with temps in the mid 80s, brought out a large response from the SJFD as well as a larger than usual response from Fire Associates. Responding FASCV members were Don Gilbert (Driver), John Whiteside (Driver), Bruce Dembecki, John Whitaker, George Hoyt, Mike Chappell, Ron Green, Rick James, Bob Gundrum and guest, Walter Huber.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

San Jose Firefighters Tackle 3-Alarm Nursery Fire

Photo By John Whitaker
Photo By John Whitaker
As the clock struck midnight, firefighters from the San Jose Fire Department struck a 3rd alarm at a popular plant nursery. Located at 4606 Almaden Expy., the Summerwinds Nursery has provided the plants for many, if not most, gardens in South San Jose. Now, the main building was fully engulfed in flame.

When the SJFD paged Fire Associates at 12:20 A.M. on Wednesday morning August 29th, Bruce Dembecki responded with Fire Support Unit 2. It was the middle of night for most people, but San Jose firefighters were hard at work. They were soon joined by FASCV members John Whitaker, George Hoyt, Mike Chappell, Dan Wong and guest, Walter Huber.
The first-arriving units found the front of the wood structure fully involved with the flames quickly spreading to the interior of the building. After the IC surveyed the scene, a second alarm was quickly called. Anyone who has been inside the business knows that the entire interior was wide open with cathedral ceilings. That was a lot of open space for the flames to spread and the interior was filled with fertilizers, pesticides and indoor plants that provided a lot of fuel for the fire. Because the entire structure was fully involved, the strategy early on was for a defensive attack. While two master streams were aimed at the center of the building, one from the "Bravo" side and one on the "Delta" side, other teams concentrated on hot spots on the exterior of the blaze.
Photo By Bruce Dembecki
At the direction of SJFD Med30, Fire Associates set up rehab in the slow lane of Almaden Expy., near the "Alpha-Delta" corner. The nighttime temperatures were still warm throughout the incident's duration, so water and Gatorade were in demand. However, several pots of coffee helped to keep fire crews, and FASCV members, alert during the wee hours of the morning.

With the fire operation in overhaul mode, and police wanting to open up Almaden Expy. for the quickly approaching commute hour, FSU-2 was released at: 04:15 A.M.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fire Associates Responds to Sunnyvale Moble Home Fire

Photo By Bruce Dembecki
Date and Time: 24 Aug. 2012, 10:30 P.M.
Agency: Sunnyvale
Incident Address: 1050 Borregas Ave., Sunnyvale
Type: Second alarm
Details: Double-wide mobile home. Close exposures.
Agency Responders:
SNY: E-1, 2, 5, 6, 60; T-2; R-2; IC-Discher
SNC and MTV: Assisted with brief station fill
FASCV Responding Unit:
Initially Carr in FSU-4, then Haag substituted in FSU-1 after FSU-4 battery failure. Arrived: 2318, released: 0100 hours.

FASCV Responders: Jerry Haag (driver), Ron Green, Dan Wong, Larry Carr, Bruce Dembechi, George Hoyt and Walter Huber (guest).
-- Report submitted by Jerry Haag

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

FASCV Responds to House Fire In South San Jose

Photo By Bruce Dembecki
On Tuesday night, August 14, Fire Associates was paged by the San Jose Fire Department to a house fire in South San Jose. The 10:52 P.M. call was for a house fire at 6263 Lean Ave. John Whitesdie responded for Fire Associates in Fire Support Unit 3. He was met at the fire by Bruce Dembecki, John Whitaker and Walter Huber (guest), and later, Dan Wong arrived on scene.
The fire was officially listed as a first alarm response, but with an extra truck company on scene, and an additional engine company, the IC reported that they were actually one engine short of a 2nd alarm. The first-due truck company (T-35) was busy on a medical call at the time of the dispatch, but made themselves available within a short time.

First-arriving engine companies reported flames above the roof on the "Charlie" side of the two-story structure. Crews on the ground reported that flames were coming out of both upstairs windows on the back of the home. Two attack lines were placed into the building and the interior firefighters reported "...heavy flames at the top of the stairs." With all residents and several pets safely outside, the truck companies concentrated on ventilation of the roof and one crew was assigned to begin pulling ceilings to expose more of the fire. In addition, crews reported that the upstairs floor was also burning, so a third attack line was positioned on the ground floor. After knockdown was achieved, the fire required extensive overhaul. The overhaul work was complicated by the fact that the fire had burned a hole from the second floor through to the first floor.

Fire Associates provided the usual coffee, Gatorade, water and lemonade to exhausted firefighters in Rehab. Although it was a middle-of-the-night fire, the nighttime summer temperature of 64 degrees made the firefighting effort hotter than usual. After all crews were rested, FSU-3 was released from service at 1:20 A.M.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fire Associates Called to Grass Fire In Palo Alto

Date and Time: 08 August 2012, 6:46 P.M.
Agency: Palo Alto Fire
Incident Address: Arastradero Preserve, 1529 Arastradero Rd., near Page Mill Rd., Palo Alto
Type: Special Call
Details: Low lying vegetation fire. No structures involved.
Responding Agencies: Palo Alto, Santa Clara County, Woodside and Cal Fire (Type 3 engines, air resources, 2 hand crews)

FASCV Responding Unit: FSU-1
FASCV Responders: Len Williams (Driver),  Jerry Haag and Walter Huber (guest)
Arrived: 7:15 P.M., released: 9:00 P.M.
-- Report submitted by Jerry Haag

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Multiple-Alarm Los Gatos Vegetation Fire Spreads into Apartment Parking Lots

Photo By Brian A. Floyd
Shortly before 6:00 P.M. on Thursday, August 2, Santa Clara County Fire began receiving reports of a grass fire in Los Gatos, between residences on Calle Marguerita and Hwy 85. What started as a brush response was quickly upgraded to a full Brush Alarm, and then a second Brush Alarm. The fire was burning in a strip of vegetation sandwiched between the apartment building parkinglot and the Union Pacific railroad tracks that run under some high-tension power lines alongside Highway 85.
Units on scene were confronted with a medium-intensity grass fire, some burning trees, and then several out-buildings and parked vehicles began burning. At that point, a Full First Alarm Structure Assignment was added to the response to deal with the burning buildings and evacuating the nearby apartment buildings. Additional units were requested from San Jose Fire Department. County Fire also used units from San Jose and Sunnyvale Fire Departments to provide Station coverage.
As this incident was developing, Fire Associates members were en route to their monthly meeting at County Fire's Shannon Fire Station in Los Gatos. Several members responded to the fire instead of the meeting, with Bruce Dembecki fetching Fire Support Unit 2, and being met on scene by John Whiteside, John Whitaker and, as a pleasant surprise, Fire Associates member Jill Levy made a guest appearance.
Photo By Bruce Dembecki
Cold drinks were the order of the day with water, lemonade and Gatorade being popular with fire crews. Although the threat level was high, the fire was quickly contained and crews were released to return to service in a short amount of time. Fire Support Unit 2 and the FASCV members on scene were released in time to join the Fire Associates meeting underway outdoors behind Shannon Station (County Engine 6, normally stationed at Shannon, was on scene at the fire!).
-- Story submitted by Bruce Dembecki