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