Sunday, June 30, 2013

Simultaneous Apartment House and Vegetation Fires Keep San Jose Firefighters Busy

Photo By John Whitaker
Fire #1:
On Sunday, June 30, Fire Associates responded Fire Support Unit 3 to a San Jose structure fire at an apartment complex located at 3987 Ellmar Oaks Drive. First arriving crews to the mid-afternoon blaze, discovered the second-floor balcony of a 6-plex building fully involved with the fire spreading rapidly to the attic area.
On a very hot summer afternoon, a second alarm was quickly called and John Whiteside responded for Fire Associates with Fire Support Unit 3. He was met on scene by FASCV past-president John Whitaker who had scouted the area and directed FSU-3 to the rehab location. SJFD's Med 30 had set up a formal rehab area in some vacant carports near the fire's location. The shade provided by the carports was greatly appreciated by the firefighters as ambient temperatures were approaching the 100-degree mark.
First indications were that an unattended gas BBQ was the source of the blaze. The fire spread to the structure and raced almost the length of the building's small attic space. Fire crews worked feverishly to pull ceilings in an effort to chase the flames and extinguish the fire.
Photo By Bruce Dembecki
With the extreme 100-degree heat, Fire Associates member Bruce Dembecki proactively decided to also staff Fire Support Unit 2 and stand by at the structure fire in case an additional need arose.
Fire #2:
But, at 5:00 P.M., before FSU 2 had even left Fire Station 6, a vegetation fire was reported on southbound Hwy. 87. Upon arrival, Engine 1 requested additional resources. Knowing that Med 30 was committed to the structure fire, FSU 2 responded towards the vegetation fire in case the crews needed hydration.
Coming from the north, along Interstate Hwy. 280, FSU 2 came across the blaze blowing flames across the ramps between 280-to-87S and moved into traffic control mode while waiting for the CHP to arrive. Once CHP took over control of the ramp, FSU 2 relocated to Hwy. 87 below the fire and established a re-hydration station.
An additional unit was called to the area around the fire for embers patrol. The fire escalated to a full Tier 1 response before running out of fuel and leaving the fire crews with a long, hot, tiring clean up operation. Water and Gatorade, along with our famous Clif Bars, were quite popular. FSU 2 was released about 2 hours later.
-- Report jointly submitted by John Whitaker and Bruce Dembecki

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fires Burn Along Coyote Creek, Again

Photo By Craig Allyn Rose
On Saturday, June 22, at about 1630, San Jose Fire received multiple reports of a spreading brush fire in Coyote Creek, just north of Capital Expressway. In response, a Tier 1 was dispatched. Soon the fire jumped the 6-lane expressway southward into grassland on an old landfill. 
A separate Tier 1 was dispatched to the second fire. Due to burning treesCal Fire support was requested and a copter, 3 hand crews, and engines responded.
John Whiteside had been monitoring the fire radio and responded to SJ Station 35 to take Fire Support Unit #3, if requested. En route, at 1721, he was paged to respond
After arriving at the southern fire on Singleton Road, and setting up Rehab, SJ Med 30 asked if we could get another FSU to the northern fire. Don Gilbert responded with FSU #2 from SJ Station 6 to Tuers Road
George Hoyt and Dan Wong arrived to support. After the fires were contained, and controlled, George and Dan made two meal runs to pick up and deliver 90+ meals to the fire scenes. After the southern fire was controlled and crews fed, FSU #3 moved to the northern fire scene to assist FSU #2. Both units were released at 2230. Approximately ten acres burned.
-- Report submitted by John Whiteside

Police Chase Results in Crash and 2-Alarm Fire

Photo by Bruce Dembecki
Early in morning on June 22, Fire Associates received a page to respond to a second alarm fire at 397 Bluefield Drive in San Jose. Typically, San Jose doesn't request Fire Associates till a third alarm, but this was no typical incident.
The incident started before midnight when a SJPD cruiser noticed a car coming the other way without headlights. When the Police cruiser did a U turn to investigate, the car took off, loosing control as it rounded the corner, and smashing through one home's garage (which collapsed) and crumpling against the wall of the next house. In the process, the car sheared off the gas supply for both houses, before the meters, so there was no gas cut off point.
At this point, the wreckage and the gas combined and the gas ignited. The gas fed fire quickly spread to both homes. Police officers were immediately on scene and were able to get the four occupants out of the car, and evacuate the residents from both houses. In the process of effecting the rescue, one Police officer received minor injuries, and one of the juveniles in the car also required hospitalization.

Fire crews arrived on scene to find both houses fully engulfed in flames, with the two gas mains causing additional problems. The area between the two houses was compromised because of the collapse of the first house, the debris from the accident and the gas lines.
Crews struck a second alarm and worked to prevent the spread of the fire to additional properties. PG&E was summoned to the scene. With the vehicle and residences already evacuated, fire crews decided to contain the blaze to the affected buildings and wait for PG&E.
When PG&E arrived, it was clear they could not control the flow of gas in the debris field as the lines were broken before the cutoff valves. More resources were called and PG&E set about digging up the street to find the gas feed for the homes and cut it off in the street.
This was clearly going to take time. San Jose Fire Commanders summoned additional resources to the scene, including the HIT units due to the Hazmat nature of the call, the Air unit and Fire Associates. With the 2nd alarm, and numerous Special Calls, there were 22 Fire Dept. units dispatched to the scene.
Upon receiving the 12:55 A.M. page out, Fire Associates member Bruce Dembecki responded to the incident, collecting Fire Support Unit 2 from San Jose Fire Station 6, and reporting on scene at 01:25 AM.
FSU 2 was used to establish a Rehab sector across from the inferno. A range of hot and cold drinks were made available along with snacks. County EMS crews set up to do Formal Rehab and monitor firefighter vitals. while the crews cycled through Rehab to recuperate and prepare for the next round of the fire fight.
Once the gas was cut off, fire crews could begin a more aggressive attack. The debris field between the houses and the collapsed garage of the first house continue to present a challenge to fire crews, as the area was clearly not safe. The attic fire burning unchecked in the second house for so long meant that roof was unstable and likely to collapse. These factors all combined to mean the fire fighting effort was restricted to a defensive operation, fighting the fire from the outside - entering the buildings wasn't safe.

Eventually, the fires were extinguished and weary crews were released. One home was extensively damaged in the incident, the second was completely destroyed. Two firefighters received minor injures during the incident.

Fire Support Unit 2 was released from the scene around 4:30 A.M. was back in quarters by 4:45 A.M.

-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Second Major Vegetation of the Day Strikes Along Hellyer Ave. In San Jose

Photo By Bruce Dembecki
Shortly after 3:30 P.M. on Saturday, June 15, San Jose firefighters responded to reports of a vegetation fire along Hellyer Ave. This was the second blaze in the area for the day, with the first going to a Tier 2 response. Fire Associates were called to the first fire, located between Hellyer Ave. and Embedded Way, but were cancelled en route.
The second blaze, located along the north side of Hellyer Ave., appeared to be larger and faster than the first, with the first fire unit on scene reporting 5 to 8 acres burnt with 5-ft. flames. The incident was quickly escalated to a Tier 2, and a Medium CalFire response was also requested, bringing more fire engines, dozers, air tankers and Copter 106.
Fire Support Unit 2 was in service and attached to the incident. FASCV member Bruce Dembecki brought FSU-2 and was met on scene by FASCV members George Hoyt. and John Whitaker.
Fortunately for everyone, the blaze was stopped by a narrow trail and, together with firefighter efforts, the blaze was contained quickly. FSU-2 was released at 5:00 P.M. after providing minimal service of cold water and Gatorade.
-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Falling Tree Results in Multiple Victims and FASCV Response

On June 1, an unusual 4th dispatch of the day started with a 1917 hours page to respond to a very large, old tree that had suddenly fallen in a city park. The tree hit people in the park as it fell, trapped others in cars in the parking lot and wound up blocking a street.
John Whiteside was taking a well-deserved break and having a bite to eat, courtesy of the Station 35 crew, so Don Gilbert responded in FSU #2. Based at San Jose Station 6, the rig was already close to Willow Street at Camino Ramon, just a few blocks away from the station. John also responded with FSU #3. Other members on scene were George Hoyt, Dan Wong, and Bruce Dembecki. 
Santa Clara County Fire sent its USAR Task Force to assist San Joses USAR 34 group. Several victims were rescued and transported to hospitals. Both FSUs were released about 2045. 
The remainder of the day was quiet for Fire Associates! 
-- Report submitted by John Whiteside

Fire Associates Paged to Another Grass Fire in San Jose

The 3rd dispatch of the day for Fire Associates came at 1529 hours on June 1. FASCV members were paged for a grass fire at Story Road and Remillard Court. John Whiteside responded from Station 35 in FSU #3 and was met by George Hoyt. 
The fire, as a result special calls, was the equivalent of a Tier 4 (fourth alarm), per the Incident Commander. CalFire Copter 106 was airborne in the area and assisted with water drops and deployment of its Helitack crew. Due to the location, water tenders, brush patrols and engines shuttled water into the fire area. Some rigs were dispatched across I-280 for access from the other side. 
This 5-acre fire was the 4th or 5th fire in the same field this year. FSU #3 was released at approximately 1830 and returned to Station 35. 
-- Report submitted by John Whiteside

Tier 2 San Jose Grass Fire Triggers FASCV Response

June 1 was forecasted to be the hottest day yet of this year, with temperatures possibly hitting 3 digits. So, it was not unexpected that just before noon, San Jose Fire dispatched units to a grass fire a block from Station 35 -- at Endicott and Great Oaks Parkway. The wind-swept fire escalated into a Tier 1, then Tier 2 (second alarm) response. 
Fire Associates was paged at 1208 hours and John Whiteside responded with Fire Support Unit #3, based at Station 35. This was FASCV's second call of the day. George Hoyt arrived to assist John. The fires spread was slowed downwind by a long concrete block wall surrounding industrial buildings. The responders worked to extinguish hot spots throughout the 4-acre burn area. FSU #3 was released at 1330 and returned to Station 35.
Because of the heat, John discussed the situation with SJFD's Med 30 and they decided to staff FSU #3 On Call for the remainder of the afternoon, with cool drinks ready, for additional grass fires sure to come. San Jose dispatch was advised of the FSU #3 standby.
-- Report submitted by John Whiteside