Sunday, December 14, 2014

Early Morning Response by Fire Associates to Gilroy Area

Photo By John Whiteside
Sunday morning, December 14, at 0139 hours, Morgan Hill CALFIRE paged Fire Associates for an abandoned structure fire at 3115 Pacheco Pass Highway (Highway 152), near Canada Road, east of Gilroy. This is the jurisdiction of the South Santa Clara County Fire District (SCC). John Whiteside’s pager activated at 0139 hours and he responded with Fire Support Unit 3 from south San Jose Station 35.
After purchasing donuts, John began the half-hour drive. He was met by guest Bill Roth, who lives in the area, and together they set up Rehab on the blocked west-bound lane of the highway. Lots of hot coffee, donuts and CLIF bars were welcomed by the firefighters in the cold morning. Fortunately, it was not raining at the time.
Photo By John Whiteside
Gilroy BC 47 and E 47 were first on scene. They were joined by CALFIRE B1620, SCC Engines 67,68,69, Water Tenders 67,68 and CDF Engines 1661, 1681. San Jose Engines 27 and 24 were also dispatched. E 27 was released shortly after arrival and E 24 provided station coverage in the District. The structure was totally involved so it became a “drown” operation, drafting from a portable water tank, with water suppied by shuttles.
FSU-3 was released at 0600 and returned to quarters at Station 35.
-- Report submitted by John Whiteside

Thursday, December 11, 2014

FASCV Responds to Safeway Roof Collapse

Photo By Bruce Dembecki
On Thursday, December 11, the Bay Area was gripped by a winter storm, known to media in the area as "Stormaggedon". San Jose received over 4 inches of rain in less than 24 hours.
Shortly before 4:00 P.M., word came to San Jose Fire Department that the roof of the Safeway at 1771 E. Capitol Expressway had collapsed into the store, and it was unknown how many people were inside.
Arriving units discovered a large section of roof, initially thought to be over 2,500 square feet, had collapsed into the produce section and across several aisles of groceries. While the staff were accounted for, it was unknown how many customers were in the store and the remaining roof and walls were clearly unstable. The arriving crew called for the USAR Task Force and a full-first structure response. Once on scene, the B/C escalated the incident to a second alarm, plus the USAR Task Force, plus several special-call units.
The San Jose Police Department helicopter, Air 2, was used to assist with the assessment of the building, providing overhead information about the size of the collapse and the condition of the rest of the roof (which included a major crack extending 80 feet from the existing collapse, with several small cracks running off that). Crews cautiously worked to develop a strategy to safely search the interior of the building for any victims.
While the USAR team worked on a search plan, several truck companies examined the roof structure on the adjoining properties in the strip-style mall. Other crews worked to shut off the Safeway sprinkler system which was releasing large amounts of water into the property, and secure gas and electricity lines to the properties.
A Special Call was made to add Fire Associates to the incident, and Bruce Dembecki responded to the scene with Fire Support Unit 2, arriving at 5:45 P.M. Crews were certainly wet, as it was raining heavily all afternoon. The Incident Commander advised that his top priority for Fire Associates was feeding the crews as dinner time was approaching. Bruce set about organizing meal service.
By 6:30 P.M., a primary and secondary search had been conducted and the incident was declared under control. One shopper had received a minor injury during the collapse, but despite the significant damage to the structure and the store contents, the people inside came through largely unscathed.

At 7:00 P.M., Bruce served dinner to hungry fire and EMS crews, and, after securing the property, everyone was released by 9:00 P.M.
-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

$20,000 Goal for FASCV Radio Fund - Please Help

The conversion of Santa Clara County fire agencies to the new 700MHZ digital trunked systems is starting. Santa Clara City Fire and Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety will be the first to go to this system. As additional agencies convert, Fire Associates rig radios will be rendered obsolete. For safety and operational reasons, we must be able to communicate with our served agencies. 
Previously, we have had surplus radios donated to us by various agencies or have funded them from our own resources.  However, surplus radios are not available and new dual-band replacement radios for our four rigs will cost nearly $20,000.
We cannot fund that cost from current assets without seriously depleting our reserve funds. As a result, the Board of Directors has established the FASCV Radio Fund. Donations from members, firefighters, agencies, and benefactors will be greatly appreciated. 

Currently, our fund raising total stands at $8,522.00.
Checks should be made payable to "FASCV" with a notation in the memo field indicating “Radio Fund” and sent to the attention of Cliff Smith, Treasurer, FASCV, 1166 Cameo Drive, Campbell, CA 95008. 
Donations may also be made by PayPal and additional mechanisms available at our web site:

Monday, November 24, 2014

FASCV Responds to 2-Alarm House Fire In Milpitas

Date and Time:  Nov. 24, 2:04 PM
Agency: Milpitas Fire
Incident Address: 599 Redwood Ave., Milpitas
Type: Second Alarm
Details: Single-story, single-family house.

Agency Responders:
MLP: E-86, 87, 88; T-89; USAR-89; B-86 (Frawley-IC).
SJS: E-23.
XSC: Med-43.
FASCV Responding Unit: FSU-1. Arrived: 1440; Released 1555.
FASCV Responders: Garcia, Gundrum (driver), Haag.
-- Report submitted by Jerry Haag

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Two-Alarm Fire Destroys Spa in Campbell

Photo By Michael Garcia
Saturday, November 22, was a misty, overcast day in the San Jose area. At 1117 hours, Santa Clara County Fire (Central Fire - CNT) dispatched units to a commercial structure fire at 2210 South Bascom Avenue, cross of Apricot Avenue in the city of Campbell. One caller stated there was a fire in the Spa, gave no further details and hung up.
The first responding unit stated over the radio “…there is heavy black smoke showing, the single-story building is 20% involved, upgrade this to a full first response and also give me a second alarm!”
This alarm level dispatched a request for a Fire Associates Fire Support Unit. FASCV member John Whiteside was the only south area driver available and upon receiving a page at 1129, he responded with FSU-2. Waiting on scene was member Cliff Smith (and wife Sheila) and guest, Dave Cantanho. As they were helping John set up, FASCV member Mike Garcia and guest Mike Jensen arrived.
Photo By John Whiteside
Several second-alarm units had been released by this time but the remaining firefighters were provided bottled water, Gatorade, CLIF bars, coffee, and benches for seating. Rehab had been set up in front of a Subway sandwich shop; later the Incident Commander walked in and ordered sandwiches for the assembled personnel.
After supporting lunch service, FSU-2 was released and returned to San Jose Station 6 at 1510.
-- Report submitted by John Whiteside

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Major San Jose Church Fire Brings 4-Alarm Response

Photo by Michael Garcia
You wouldn't think that a major fire could start burning in a church on a Sunday afternoon, but that's exactly what happened in San Jose on Nov. 16.
Shortly after 2:00 P.M., and just after the weekly Italian Mass had concluded, San Jose Fire dispatchers began receiving calls that a fire was burning in the Holy Cross Catholic church. Located at 580 Jackson Street, between 12th and 13th Streets, the blaze was reportedly burning in the choir loft area at the front of the structure. While en route, the Battalion Chief called a second alarm as multiple calls were being received and smoke was showing.
First-arriving fire units reported afterward that, upon arrival, smoke was billowing out of every external opening in the large building. An interior attack was quickly begun, but the fire progressed rapidly into the ceiling rafters and spread to the roof and bell tower.
Photo By John Whitaker
At 2:40 P.M., a third alarm was called, followed shortly thereafter by a fourth alarm. After a valiant effort to get ahead of the blaze, firefighters had to pull out of the church because the integrity of the structure was beginning to be of concern. Three aerial master streams were set up along with numerous ground monitors in a huge "surround-and-drown" effort to curtail the fire.
The third alarm brought with it a request for Fire Associates assistance. Don Gilbert answered the call with Fire Support Unit 2. Don and John Whiteside were in communication and it was decided that an additional Support Unit might be helpful because of the size of the fire ground and the shear number of firefighters on scene. John Whiteside left for SJFD Station 35 and responded to the scene with FSU-3. Also responding directly to the fire were FASCV members Bob Gundrum, Mike Garcia, John Whitaker, and Len Williams.
Photo By John Whitaker
After conferring with SJFD Med30, a primary Rehab area was established on Jackson Street just to the west of the fire. Lemonade, Gatorade, water, and Clif Bars were provided to firefighters and a benches were set up for a place to rest. Once on scene, John Whiteside set up FSU-3 on Jackson Street to the east of the involved structure. As the dinner hour approached, and crews were still on scene, 100 burritos were ordered for dinner. Shortly before 6:00 P.M., John Whitaker left in his personal vehicle to pick up the order from a downtown restaurant. A meal area was set up in the primary Rehab area and fire crews were served their dinner.
At approximately 8:00 P.M., after all the firefighters had eaten, both Rehab areas were de-mobed and FASCV members were released by the IC.
  • Photos by John Whitaker and Mike Garcia can be viewed at:  Holy Cross Church
  • A San Jose Mercury News story can be read at:  Church Fire
-- Story submitted by John Whitaker

Friday, October 24, 2014

Residents Escape 2-Alarm Fire In Milpitas

Date and Time:  10-24-2014; 3:26 AM
Agency: Milpitas Fire
Incident Address: 2236 Farmcrest St., Milpitas
Type: Second Alarm
Details: Fire in kitchen spread quickly to second floor and attic of large house. Four persons displaced. First-arriving Milpitas Police officers found all the residents on the roof of the garage. Their escape route down the interior stairway was blocked by fire, so the residents climbed out a window onto the garage roof at the front of the structure. The 2 officers assisted everyone off the roof and they took shelter on a lawn across the street from the residence.
Agency Responders:MLP: E-86, 87, 88; T-89; USAR-89; B-86 (Silvi-IC).
SJS: E-19, 619, 23, 29; T-29; B-29.
XSC: Med-72.
FASCV Responding Unit: FSU-1. Arrived: 0415; Released 0600.
FASCV Responders: Jerry Haag (driver), John Whitaker
-- Report submitted by Jerry Haag and John Whitaker

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Large Pallet Fire In Gilroy Lights Up the Morning Sky

Photo By Craig Allyn Rose
On Wednesday, October 22, an early morning blaze started in pile of pallets in a complex at 2713 Ferguson Rd. in Gilroy and was reported to South County Fire at around 4:40 A.M. Units from South Santa Clara County Fire District arrived and reported the blaze was large and starting to involve what could best be described as a barn.
Once on scene, the South County B/C requested more resources, adding 4 Water Tenders and more additional Engines to his original request. The fire was burning in several thousand square feet of pallet storage, and thousands of pallets were burning. Once the fire established in the barn, the IC added Ladder Trucks, 5 more engines, and 2 more Water Tenders to his request, together with a strike team of Type 1 Engines to stand by in the vicinity too protect other nearby structures.
Around 7:00 A.M., Fire Associates was paged to the scene, and John Whiteside responded in Fire Support Unit 3, stopping along the way for a supply of donuts. John was met on site by Fire Associates guest Bill Roth and the pair set up for morning Rehab. Hot coffee and donuts proved to be as popular as always. A short while later, Fire Associates member Bruce Dembecki arrived on scene to help out.
Eventually, the fire spread into bales of cardboard waiting to be recycled and the operation to pull apart the cardboard and other debris to extinguish the fire extended for multiple hours. While several thousand square feet of barn were lost, the bulk of the building was saved.
After a very long morning, fire crews were delighted when lunch was served by the Fire Associates team.
SSCCFD was assisted in fighting the blaze by units from Gilroy Fire, Morgan Hill Fire, Cal Fire, and San Jose Fire with additional support in the form of Water Tenders from Spring Valley Fire and Hollister Fire (and, of course, our FSU-3).
-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

Thursday, October 9, 2014

San Jose Garage Fire Destroys Vehicles and Attached Home

Photo By John Whitaker
At approximately 10:30 A.M. on Thursday morning, Oct. 9, San Jose Fire Dispatch received numerous calls for a garage on fire near Story Rd. Located at 919 Gerard Ave. in East San Jose, the fire was sending up a column of black smoke that could be seen throughout the Santa Clara Valley. It was not long before the first-alarm units were on scene and pulling hose lines to protect exposures on the "Bravo" and "Delta" sides of the blaze.
Fire crews that went to the rear of the structure were hampered by power lines that were running along the back side of the property. By this time, the blaze was getting so hot (being fed by multiple burning vehicles in the garage and driveway) that the garage roof totally collapsed. The fire was quickly declared a "defensive" effort and all firefighters were ordered out of the structure.
When a second alarm was called, Fire Associates was "special-called" for Rehab support. Don Gilbert picked up Fire Support Unit 2 and headed to the fire while FASCV member John Whitaker went directly to the scene. After interfacing with the IC and Med 30, John picked out a somewhat shady location for Rehab and awaited Don's arrival. Just before FSU-2 arrived on scene, John was joined by FASCV vice president, Bob Gundrum. They directed Don to the Rehab location and quickly went about setting up tables and benches for tired firefighters. 
An order was put in for 25 Togo's sandwiches with John going to pick them up in his personal vehicle. Firefighters were very appreciative as they downed the sandwiches and lots of water and Gatorade. As the last of the fire crews were released from the incident, rehab was broken down and FSU-2 returned to quarters at San Jose Fire Station 6 shortly before 1:30 P.M.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker

Friday, October 3, 2014

2-Alarm Fire Burns Garage In Los Altos

Date and Time: 10-03-2014, 1720 hours
Agency: Santa Clara County Fire
Incident Address: 13410 La Cresta Dr., Los Altos Hills
Type: Second Alarm
Details: Fire in a large garage exposing an attached garage of a large house. Access complicated by steep driveway.
Agency Responders:
CNT: E-71, 73, 75, 76,77, 78; U-72; R-73, 74; B-74, 76 (Bowden-IC).
PAF: T-66, B-66.
FASCV Responding Unit: FSU-1. Arrived: 1835; Released 2030.
FASCV Responders: Mike Garcia (driver), Jerry Haag, and Dan Wong.
  • A short news story from Palo Alto Online can be read at:  Los Altos Fire 
-- Report submitted by Jerry Haag

Second Alarm Called as Campbell Kitchen Fire Spreads Into Attic

Around noon on Friday October 3, Santa Clara County Fire received reports of a fire in a home located at 1964 Villarita Drive, Campbell. This area of Campbell is often served by the San Jose Fire Department on "AutoAid". However, the initial request for San Jose Engine 14 to respond was not filled as Engine 14 was already on a smoke investigation in a nearby area of San Jose.
It didn't take long for everyone to realize that these two events were likely related, and Engine 14 attached to the County incident. Arriving on scene first, SJ Engine 14 reported pressurized white smoke from the building, and a probable rescue requirement, with reports of an invalid person inside the home. When County Battalion 72 arrived and assumed IC, he requested a second alarm due the significant amount of fire inside the structure and the ongoing search for occupants.
The fire apparently started as a kitchen fire-on-the-stove incident, but spread through the flue into the attic. Once established in the attic, the fire ran the entire space one end of the building to the other, doing significant damage to the interior of the structure process.
It was over 90 degrees in the midday sun and Fire Support Unit 2 was quickly en route to the scene with Fire Associates member Bruce Dembecki. FSU-2 was met on scene by FASCV members Jerry Haag, Don Gilbert, John Whitaker, and Mike Garcia. Cold water, Gatorade, and Lemonade were popular as crews tried to beat the heat and stay hydrated.
FSU-2 was released from the incident, along with most other crews, by 2:30 P.M.

-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

Thursday, October 2, 2014

FASCV Members Provide Emergency Support At Traffic Accident

Returning from an incident with Santa Clara County Fire, Fire Support Unit 2 came across a 2-vehicle accident in the major intersection of Leigh Ave. and Hamilton Ave. The wreck was straddling both San Jose and Campbell, just after 10:00 P.M. on October 2. With the two cars blocking a significant part of the roadway, and no other emergency crews on scene, FSU-2 stopped to investigate.
Fire Associates member Bruce Dembecki checked on the two vehicles and their occupants, while member John Whiteside contacted San Jose Fire Dispatch for an EMS response. The investigation revealed two patients (one moderate and one minor) and the incident was classified as an EMS "Charlie".
The location of the incident caused some confusion as to which agency would be responsible for the incident. Eventually, it was determined that County Fire should handle the EMS side of things, while San Jose PD took the traffic investigation.
Bruce and John provided comfort to the patients and used FSU-2 and it's emergency lights to provide protection on the scene until PD could setup traffic controls around the incident. Once Engine 81 was on scene, the Fire Associates crew passed on their information to the firefighters, and quietly left to continue their journey back to quarters at San Jose Fire Station 6.
It should be noted that this is the second time in the last 2 months that Bruce and John have provided EMS support at an incident while traveling to or from a fire call in FSU-2. The other EMS incident occurred on August 28 and can be read at this link:  Pachco Pass EMS
Good job, guys!
-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

FASCV Monthly Meeting Interrupted By 2-Alarm House Fire

On Thursday, October 2, as Fire Associates members gathered at San Jose Fire Station 13 for their monthly membership meeting. But, just as the program for the evening was about to begin, Santa Clara County Fire crews were being dispatched to reports of a house on fire at 1072 Longfellow Ave. in Campbell.
County Truck 85 arrived on scene and promptly reported that what had started as a stand-alone garage fire had already spread to 2 exposures, and requested a second alarm be dispatched. With the second alarm request, Fire Associates members were paged to the scene.
Of course, with 15 members in attendance at the meeting, it got pretty loud when all the members' pagers sounded off simultaneously. Fire Associates members Bruce Dembecki and John Whiteside left the meeting at Station 13 and headed to Station 6 in Willow Glen to pick up Fire Support Unit 2.
Arriving on scene around 8:20 P.M., FASCV members discovered that the fire had been knocked down, but the IC was keeping the first alarm units for some extensive mop up on three affected buildings. He was grateful to have FSU-2 on scene to help with the rehab needs for his crews on a warm evening. Bruce and John were met on scene by a Fire Associates guest, and Campbell CERT member, Jenny Moore.
Cold drinks were popular into the evening as fire crews worked to make the various structures safe. FSU-2 and most of the crews on scene were released by 10:00 P.M. and the Fire Associates team headed back to Fire Station 6 to put the rig away.
-- Report Submitted By Bruce Dembecki

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mt. View Hazmat Incident Becomes All-Night Event

Photo Courtesy of Deputy Chief Juan Diaz, Mt. View Fire
Date and Time: 09-24-2014, 2024 hours
Agency: Mountain View Fire
Type: Special Call, HazMat
Details: Intentional mixing of reactive chemicals resulted in a release of toxic gas that caused the death of two male individuals. Two large apartment buildings were vacated and an overnight shelter was set up by the city and staffed by the Red Cross. Heavy response by MTV Fire was supplemented by SNY Public Safety on scene and CNT responded for fire station back-fill. Extensive investigation, decon activities, and deaths of two individuals resulted in a lengthy on-scene duration by fire agencies and Fire Associates.
Agency Responders:
MTV: E-51,
52, 53, 54, 55; T-51; R-51; HM-55; Batt-51 (Custudio-IC), and 18A2 (Diaz)
SNY: E-42, 43; R-42
CNT: Station coverage.
FASCV Responding Unit: FSU-1. Arrived: 2130; Released 0430 (Sept. 25).
FASCV Responders: Mike Garcia (driver), Jerry Haag, Dan Wong, and Katelyn Garcia (guest).
-- Report submitted by Jerry Haag

Power Lines Complicate 3-Alarm Response for A Structure Fire

Photo By Craig Allyn Rose
On Wednesday, September 24, Fire Associates responded to a 3-alarm fire in San Jose. Located at 763 Concord Ave. near the intersection of Southwest Expressway and Fruitdale Ave., the area is a neighborhood of high-density apartment and condo-style housing. A drop line had fallen between a power supply pole and the rear of one of the apartment units.
As 3-alarm fires go, this was not a biggie. As a mater of fact, it probably wasn't much more than a full-first alarm. However, this fire did have potential -- a lot of potential, and thus, the reason for the 3 alarms. 
Photo By Craig Allyn Rose
The supply line was located at the rear of the units and the fire was not only burning in the structure, it was also burning up the pole which had a power transformer attached. The first-arriving Battalion Chief was worried that the entire supply line (which ran the length of the block) could fail and drop onto numerous housing units. As a mater of fact, before firefighters got a handle on the situation, the top of the power pole had almost burned completely through. As of this writing, it was unclear whether a fire on the pole had caused the line to fall, or whether the structure fire had burned through the line.
John Whiteside responded to the call for Rehab assistance and arrived on scene with Fire Support Unit 2. He was met by John Whitaker and, at the request of SJFD's Med30, they quickly set up a minimal Rehab area to provided cold drinks and Clif Bars. FASCV member Dan Wong also arrived on scene to help out. Most of the firefighters' time was spent waiting for PG&E to cut power to the block, and once that was accomplished, went to work with a salvage and overhaul operation. After being on scene for several hours, FASCV was released at 7:00 P.M.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pallet and Wood Box Fire Goes to A Second Alarm

Photo By Craig Allyn Rose
At 2:50 A.M. in the morning, you don't want to be awakened -- especially on your birthday! But that's what happened to FASCV member John Whitaker on Tuesday, September 16th.
The San Jose Fire Department had responded to the report of a lumber yard on fire at 1080 Oakland Road. As Engine 5 was en route, it became obvious from the glow and smoke column that this was going to be "a worker" and the Captain called a second alarm right then and there.
When the Engine pulled up on scene, the exact location of the fire was changed from the lumberyard on Oakland Road to an adjacent pallet and wood box business. Located at 751 Mabury Rd., the fire was burning at Chualar Pallets Recycle -- and flames were reported to be 40 feet high.
Don Gilbert was first to respond to the page for assistance and quickly left for SJFD Station 6. As he was going to get Fire Support Unit 2, FASCV members Bruce Dembecki and John Whitaker responded to the scene in there personal vehicles. What they found was Oakland and Mabury Roads were completely blocked off with fire crews completely surrounding the blaze. 
Photo By Bruce Dembecki
Firefighters put several hand lines into operation as they tried to cool down stacks of pallets and wood boxes that were piled high with sawdust. Two master streams were also put into the firefight as the blaze was getting very hot. The word "bonfire" comes to mind!
Rehab was established at the Oakland/Mabury intersection and pots and pots of coffee were consumed in the early morning hours. But, as the sun began to rise, fire crews were released through Rehab and returned to service. By the time the sun was up, only two engine companies and truck crew remained on the fire and Fire Associates was released at approximately 7:00 A.M. 
Needless to say, John hadn't quite expected such an early party, or such a big candle, on his birthday.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Medical Emergency -- FSU-2 Proved to Be In the Right Place at the Right Time!

While en route to a large vegetation fire on Highway 152, FSU-2 was approaching the Pacheco Fire Station when reports came of a medical emergency at the fire station. With fire resources in the area tied up with the 80 acre fire, and the freeway closed in both directions, it was unclear to anyone how there could be someone at the Pacheco Fire Station -- at all.  Faced with this challenge, Fire commanders were trying to work out how to find a resource to respond. Getting an ambulance to the scene was also a challenge due to the traffic on Highway 152 being at a complete stand still for miles.
As the closest unit of any type, FSU-2 diverted to the Pacheco Fire Station to confirm if there was an actual emergency there. Meanwhile, the IC at the nearby Casa incident worked to free up a Type 1 engine to respond.
Upon arrival of FSU-2, with Fire Associates members Bruce Dembecki and John Whiteside on board, it was discovered there was indeed a patient at the Fire Station who was with a disabled vehicle that had been parked at the fire station for several hours waiting for help. The patient was diabetic and was beginning to experience problems without access to food for an extended period. With confirmation there was a patient, Casa IC was able to release an engine to respond to the medical incident.
As it turned out, FSU-2 was exactly the right unit to attach to the incident, as Bruce and John were able to provide the patient with Gatorade and Clif Bars to prevent the onset of a diabetic incident. Bruce and John stayed with the patient until South County Engine 67 could be freed up and make its way to the Fire Station. Upon the arrival of Engine 67, Fire Associates team members did a brief patient hand-off with the Engine crew, and then continued on their way to the fire.

-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

Fire Crews and Fire Associates Faced with Logistical Challenges at Recent Vegetation Fire

Photo By Bruce Dembecki

Shortly after 3:00 P.M. on Thursday, August 28, Cal Fire Morgan Hill began receiving reports of a traffic collision and vegetation fire along Highway 152, east of Casa De Fruta in Gilroy. Cal Fire responded a "Medium" response (8 engines, 2 hand crews, 2 dozers, a copter, and 2 tankers) along with a municipal response of Type 1 engines from Gilroy, South County, and Hollister along. South County water tenders were also dispatched. Arriving units found fire in heavy brush on both sides of the highway. By 4:00 P.M., with resources arriving on scene, the IC requested 3 additional Type III immediate need strike teams and 4 more water tenders. Air attack ordered more tankers and received a total of 4 Cal Fire S2T Tankers and the larger Tanker 60, a DC7, along with a second helicopter crew. Highway 152 was closed to traffic in both directions.
By 4:30 P.M.,  Casa IC was requesting more resources, including the Cal Fire Communications Van and Fire Associates.
Bruce Dembecki responded with Fire Support Unit 2 and picked up Fire Associates member John Whiteside on the way to the fire ground. Once east of Gilroy, the team was able to bypass the standstill traffic on Highway 152 with the assistance of San Jose Engine 202 and Water Tender 2. Once through the road closures at Casa De Fruta, FSU-2 was attached to a medical call at Pacheco Fire Station (see separate incident report), before continuing on to the fire ground.
Upon arrival (around 6:30 P.M.), the Fire Associates crew worked with Cal Fire Logistics to setup hydration points on the East Bound side of the freeway, before moving on to set up a Rehab station on the Westbound side. The freeway was separated by a high concrete barrier and the firefighting efforts on either side were setup as different branches. At the same time as we were setting up Rehab operations Cal Trans was working to section off the center lane of the freeway and open traffic in both directions int he single lane, giving the fire crews plenty of room on the right side of the freeway in either direction. The addition of traffic further served to cut off the two Branches from each other, and having rehab on both sides was important.
Photo By Bruce Dembecki
The fire was burning in heavy brush on the mountain pass between the Pacheco Valley floor and the County line up at Dinosaur Point. The rapid and large scale response of air resources prevented the fire from spreading with one side held to around 30 acres, and other at around 50. But getting full containment on the fire would prove to be a challenge (and ultimately take until Sunday). Crews were faced with extremely dense brush and steep steep cliffs, and the scene from the freeway looking up at the fire had fire crews looking and acting like mountain goats as they dealt with the steep sides of the mountain.
Water supply was an issue for fire crews, as there was no nearby water source, and, while they could get out of the fire scene easily, getting back through the traffic was a challenge. Some Water Tender crews went east for water, drafting from the San Luis Reservoir, while others headed west and into Hollister to pull water from the municipal system. Either way, with heavy traffic a major issue, a Water Tender was in for a two-hour round trip to go, fill, and return. In addition to the South County Water Tenders, there were Water Tenders from San Jose, Fremont, and several from Merced County, to the east of the fire's location. Later in the evening, contract water tenders began to arrive on scene to help haul water.
In addition to the original Cal Fire Medium response, and the municipal engines on the initial dispatch, there were two Cal Fire Type III Strike Teams and a Type III Strike Team from Santa Clara County Fire. These units were assisted by 5 or 6 hand crews from the Gabilan Conservation Camp, located south of Salinas.
The Cal Fire Comm Van, which was dispatched at the same time as FSU-2 from Morgan Hill, had problems gaining access to the scene through the traffic. Unlike FSU-2, the Comm Van is not equipped with emergency warning lights and spent several hours sitting in the standstill traffic on Highway 152, eventually arriving on scene shortly after 11:00 P.M.
Fire Support Unit 2 remained on scene providing fire crews water, Gatorade and cliff Bars into the night. Shortly before midnight Cal Fire's catering contractor arrived with 270 meals and pallets of Gatorade and Water, all setup in a refrigerated truck. This would be key as it was clear the operation would be ongoing for several days. FSU-2 was released by 12:30 A.M. and was back in quarters in San Jose at 1:45 A.M.
-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

FASCV Responds to Shopping Mall Fire

Date and Time: 08-13-2014, 2259 hours
Agency: County Fire
Incident Address: VALLCO Shopping Mall, 10123 N. Wolfe Rd., Cupertino
Type: Second alarm
Details: Fire in an elevator equipment room with sprinkler activation.
Agency Responders:
CNT: E-71, 72, 73, 76, 79; T-71, 74; R-73, 83; HM-72; BC-72, 74, 83; IC-Miller
FASCV Responding Unit: FSU-4, Arrived: 2325; Released 0100, 14 Aug.
FASCV Responders: Larry Carr (driver), Jerry Haag.
-- Report submitted by Jerry Haag

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

San Jose Calls 5th Alarm As Multiple Houses Burn

Photo By Craig Allyn Rose
Shortly before 11:30 A.M. on Wednesday, July 30, San Jose Fire dispatchers received reports of a fence and tree fire at 4325 Hampshire Place in San Jose's Thousand Oaks neighborhood. Before the first units arrived, reports indicated that the fire had spread to the adjacent house. Engine 28, responding from nearby Fire Station 13, arrived in only a couple of minutes and reported that the home at 4328 Hampshire Place was engulfed in fire, and fire was spreading to the adjoining home on the Bravo side. Engine 28 quickly declared the original home a defensive fire and directed incoming crews to work offensively on the Bravo 1 exposure.
With the situation clearly worsening, Battalion 29, responding from downtown, called for a second alarm. After arriving on scene and assuming the IC, Battalion 29 called for a 3rd alarm at 11:39 A.M., a 4th alarm at 11:54 A.M., and a 5th alarm at 12:11 A.M. 4th alarm units came from mutual aid, including Santa Clara County Fire and Santa Clara City Fire, while additional mutual units were requested for station coverage in San Jose.
Crews were working on saving the Bravo 1 exposure and dealing with threats to the Delta exposure. The temperature was in the upper 80s and crews were working hard to stop the fire from spreading. Many of the homes in the neighborhood still have shake shingle roofs, which caused more concern for firefighters.
With the 3rd alarm request, Fire Associates members were paged to the scene. John Whiteside responded with Fire Support Unit 3, and he was met on scene by FASCV members Bruce Dembecki and Mike Garcia. The high heat of the day meant that re-hydration and rehab became an important part of the operation. FSU-3 went through all the ice it could carry in less than an hour, and Mike made a run to the store for additional ice. Misting fans were set up as crews were put through formal rehab. FSU-3's supplies of Gatorade and bottled water were taxed, and additional supplies were brought in from Station 30. With an extended operation involving many fire crews, Fire Associates team members organized and served 70 meals for crews to get them through the hot summer afternoon.
By the end of the afternoon, the original house was destroyed, but crews had managed to save the Bravo 1 exposure - although it was heavily damaged. Most impressively, fire crews had prevented the fire from spreading to the Delta exposure and protected the rest of the neighborhood. There were no injuries as a result of the blaze.
  • Photos by Craig Allyn Rose can be viewed at:  Houses Burn
-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fire Crews Battle Vegetation Fire High Up In the Eastern Foothills

Photo By John Whiteside
On Tuesday, July 29, the temperature was in the mid 90s when San Jose Fire paged Fire Associates at 1447 hours for a Tier 2 wildland fire at 5251 Sierra Road, several thousand feet high in the eastern foothills above Alum Rock Park. A car had gone over the side of the road about 40 feet and ignited grass. The occupants safely escaped injury on the very steep-sloping hillside. Don Gilbert and John Whiteside responded to San Jose Station 6 to take Fire Support Unit 2 to the scene, departing at 1520. Guest Ken Needham assisted Don and John upon arrival.
The fire spread quickly and the San Jose response escalated to a Tier 3 at 1501, which started Santa Clara County Fire wildland units enroute. CAL FIRE sent a high-level response (7 engines, 2 dozers, 4 hand crews, air attack and Copter 106); Spring Valley VFD responded with an engine, 2 patrols, water tender; and Milpitas Fire sent an engine. Various Overhead units from the above agencies also responded. The Tier 3 was soon cancelled leaving San Jose, CAL FIRE, and Spring Valley units to handle the event.
Photo By John Whiteside
Air tankers made retardant drops along the west flank holding the fire in check along with a scratch line, Sierra Road stopped the spread to the north, and a line held on the east side. Meanwhile, mobile units drove downhill into the fire area to attack the remaining fire that was burning in light fuels. Copter 106 made several water drops.
After serving crews stationed along Sierra Road, FSU-2 was directed to proceed down into the bowl where the crews were working, providing cold drinks and CLIF bars to the personnel. The fire was contained at 12 acres. FSU-2 was released and returned home by 1915 after restocking its supply of ice from San Jose FD’s ice machine and refueling.
-- Report submitted by John Whiteside

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Wildland Fire In New Almaden Challenges Firefighters

Photo by Craig Allyn Rose
Saturday, July 26, was another hot day in San Jose. At 1647 hours, with 95-degree temperatureFire Associates was paged for a Tier 2 wildland fire at 20799 Mountain Drive at Almaden Road, near historic New Almaden, south of San Jose. John Whiteside was monitoring the emergency radio and upon getting the page, responded to San Jose Station 35 to drive Fire Support Unit 3 to the scene, several miles away. 
John arrived on scene at 1730, and set up rehab in a yard where San Jose Engine 12 was drafting from a swimming pool, pumping uphill to the fire, located on top of a steep hill, and under high tension power lines and towers. Concerned residents promptly moved horses and pets to a safe area.
Photo by Craig Allyn Rose
Upon units arriving, the incident was determined to be located within the State Responsibility Area (SRA). However, San Jose continued as the Incident Commander. Due to the weather, the response level was HIGH. CAL FIRE sent 8 engines, 2 air tankers, 1 copter, 2 hand crews, 2 dozers, 1 air attack and a personnel hydration unit. San Jose sent, over the entire incident, 13 engines, 4 brush patrols, 2 water tenders, Med 30 Supervisor, and a standby ambulance. Both agencies had various Overhead personnel involved. 
As John was setting up, guest Ken Needham arrived, then later Mike Garcia and George Hoyt. Much later Johns wife Monika and son Randy arrived to assist. An off-duty County firefighter brought a cooler full of iced drinks and a cold water dispenser. Later Fire Associates picked up 116 meals from Togos for the group.
The fire was contained at 3 acres by about 2200. John was released at 2210 and returned to Station 35 to restock the Support Unit.
-- Report submitted by John Whiteside

Early Morning Warehouse Fire Goes To Five Alarms

Photo By Craig Allyn Rose
On Saturday morning, July 26, dispatchers received an early morning report of a fire in an industrial area of San Jose. Originally reported to be at 2440 South 10th Street, the fire was found burning in a structure at 1596 South 7th Street, located between South 7th and South 10th Streets.
Early difficulties in locating the seat of the fire were overcome and the fire, burning in several warehouses and an exterior storage area, went to 5 alarms. 4th and 5th alarm units were provided by mutual aid from surrounding cities, with Santa Clara County, Santa Clara, Milpitas, and Sunnyvale Fire Departments all providing resources. The incident IC also requested an Overhead Support Team, which resulted in Senior staff from Santa Clara County, Santa Clara, Mountain View, and Palo Alto Fire assisting at the scene.
Fire Associates were called out at 3:42 A.M. with the 3rd-alarm escalation, and Fire Support Unit 2 with Don Gilbert and Bruce Dembecki was on scene shortly after 4:00 A.M. Through the morning, Fire Associates members Jerry Haag, Larry Carr, Mike Garcia, and Len Williams joined the crews on scene, as did guest Kenny Needham. 
Photo By Craig Allyn Ros
The fire destroyed several buildings, but the large amount of smoldering debris presented additional challenges for fire crews. While the fire was under control by 8:00 A.M., additional resources were requested to deal with the smoldering piles. San Jose called in two front-end loaders from the City yard to pull the debris piles apart. On what would eventually be a 95-degree day, it was clear that the operation would extend into the afternoon.
During the early morning hours, coffee was popular as were cold drinks for the crews who were already working up a sweat. Once the sun came up, and the operation moved into an extended mode, the coffee pots were put away and the demand for cold drinks increased. A supply run was made to restock the ice supply which was running low as Fire Associates crews worked to keep up with the demand from hot and tired fire crews.
Meals were served late in the morning and Fire Associates members were released from the scene shortly after 1:00 P.M.
-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Firefighters Battle 2-Alarm Fire in Mountain View

At 19:20 hrs a fire occurred at 211 Elmwood in Mountain View. Older (can you spell "balloon construction") single-story, single-family dwelling, initially reported as smoke in structure.  While looking for source of smoke (pulling ceiling) it was determined that there was fore above & below the crews. An evacuation order was issued and defensive attack developed.  One or two additional engines requested, then IC requested that dispatch fill the complete 2nd alarm.
1st alarm:
            E51 - R51 - T51 - E53 - E55 & BC 51 (Batt Chief Custodo)
2nd alarm:
            E52 - E54 - T56 (MOF), BS64 (PAF) & BC66 (PAF) + 18A2 (Dep. Chief Juan Diaz)
Fire Associates:
            FSU-1 - Mike Garcia, Bob Gundrum, Jerry Haag, Len Williams & Dan Wong

-- Report submitted by Bob Gundrum