Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tanker Truck Accident Closes Lanes of Hwy. 101 Near Morgan Hill

Photo By John Whitaker
As a Fire Associates member, one never knows what to expect when called to an incident. That was certainly the case on Thursday morning, February 27!
FASCV members were already on the scene of an early-morning 3-alarm fire in San Jose (see story elsewhere in this blog), when the emergency radio crackled with a request for FASCV in Morgan Hill. The Morgan Hill Fire Department had been dispatched to an overturned gasoline tanker on southbound Hwy .101. Located between Tennant Ave. and San Martin Ave., the tanker was fully loaded with gasoline (8,500 gallons) and in a ditch on the right-hand shoulder of the freeway. And, worst of all, the commute hour would soon be approaching and it was is leaking! 
The accident occurred shortly after 1:00 A.M. when a driver lost control of his car and spun into the tanker truck and trailer. The big rig jack-knifed and slid off the roadway. After arriving on scene, Morgan Hill Fire and the CHP quickly established the "101 IC" joint command.
After  assessing the situation, the IC called for the Santa Clara County Fire Department Hazmat task force along with assistance from Cal Fire and the Gilroy Fire Department who were also called to the scene. As the event progressed, it became obvious that the incident was going to last through the morning hours, so Fire Associates was requested.
Fortunately, Fire Support Unit 3 was close to wrapping up operations at their previous call in San Jose. With the seriousness of the Morgan Hill incident becoming clear, Fire Support Unit 3 was released from responsibilities at San Jose's 3-alarm fire and responded to the 101 incident. John Whiteside drove FSU-3 to the scene, with John Whitaker following in his private vehicle. Don Gilbert also left the San Jose fire in his vehicle and stopped en route to pick up 3-dozen donuts. Rehab was establish in the fast lane of the freeway where Santa Clara County fire had already set up their portable shelter (did we mention it was raining?) and benches. John Whiteside parked FSU-3 at that location and FASCV members provided an additional portable shelter, hot beverages, donuts, and breakfast service. It's not often that Rehab is set up in the lanes of a freeway!
Photo By John Whitaker
Rehab support was in great demand throughout the morning. There were not only representatives from the previously mentioned fire agencies, there were also representatives and workers from: the Morgan Hill Police Dept., Calif. Dept. of Fish and Game, Cal Trans, Gilroy OES, several different tow companies, and representatives from the tanker truck's owners. And, all of them were served in Rehab at one time or another.
During the clean-up operation, Hwy. 101 was completely closed in the southbound direction and the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Dept. conducted evacuations in the neighborhood nearest the freeway. The CHP arranged for another tanker to come and pump out what fuel they could from the tandem-trailer truck before any attempt could be made to remove it from the freeway.
After the fuel tanks of the tanker had been safely emptied (about a 2-hour operation), the CHP was anxious to open up one southbound lane. So, all personnel who were not directly connected to the salvage operation were asked to leave the scene. Two lanes of the freeway were to remain closed so that the big rig tow companies could remove the wreckage. Fire Associates was one of those organizations who services were no longer needed, so rehab was disbanded at approximately 9:00 A.M. 

-- Report submitted by John Whitaker

3-Alarm Townhouse Fire Challenges Firefighters In San Jose

Photo By John Whitaker
On Thursday morning, February 27, at 12:43 A.M., Fire Associates was called for a fire in San Jose.  Located at 164 Chynoweth Ave. in the southern part of the city, the fire was burning in a 4-plex apartment unit. Firefighters who were first to arrive found that a carport fire had spread up the rear of the structure and penetrated the attic space.
The fire began shortly after midnight and involved two vehicles and all 4 of the two-story units. One of the challenges for firefighters was finding shelter for the displaced residents. The fire had begun during a very heavy rainstorm and keeping 18 people, including 8 children out of the elements was proving difficult. VTA was contacted and the agency provided an out-of-service bus to temporarily house the victims.
John Whiteside responded with Fire Support Unit 3 to the early morning request for Rehab assistance. He was joined on scene by FASCV members Bruce Dembecki, Don Gilbert, and John Whitaker. Rehab was set up in the roadway on Chynoweth Ave., which had been closed off in both directions to traffic. Firefighters took full advantage of hot coffee and hot chocolate to help ward off the chills of a cold rainfall.
As these firefighting efforts were winding down, things were picking up near Morgan Hill. The full story about that incident can be read elsewhere in this blog (Hwy. 101 Accident), but the upshot is that FASCV members had to quickly dismantle the rehab area in San Jose, pack up, and respond to a freeway accident on southbound Hwy. 101.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

FASCV Responds to Early Morning Fire In Cupertino

Date and Time: 02-25-2014, 12:15 A.M.
Agency: Santa Clara County Fire
Type: Second Alarm
Incident Address: 8093 Presidio Dr., Cupertino
Details: Fire in two-story, single-family dwelling. Fire, apparently of electrical origin, was in the attached garage. It quickly penetrated the roof of the garage and spread to second floor and attic space of the house.
Agency Responders:
CNT: E-71, 72, 76, 77, 79; T-71; R-73, 74, 83; HM-72; BS-72; Battalions. 72, 74; (IC-Vega)
FASCV Responding Units: FSU-1. Arrived: 1:00 A.M., Released: 5:15 A.M.
FASCV Responders: Jerry Haag (driver), Bruce Dembecki
-- Report submitted by Jerry Haag

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Repeat Visit To Fire at Sunnyvale Address

Date and Time: Sunday, 02-16-2013, 1:15 A.M.
Agency: Sunnyvale Public Safety
Incident Address: 777 Dunkerdene Way, Sunnyvale
Type: Second Alarm
Details: Fire in single-story, single-family dwelling under construction. If this address seems familiar, this was the third fire at this address in last two years. The previous fires were on July 2, 2013 and Feb. 23, 2012. Light rain forced use of a pop-up canopy. Fire personnel under Rehabilitation and Medical Surveillance had a dry place to sit.
Agency Responders:
SNY: E-41, 42, 43, 44, 244, 45; T-41, 42; R-42; XSC Med 33; Batt. 2 (IC-Rushmeyer)
MTV: Station fill
FASCV Responding Units: FSU-1. Released: 5:15 A.M.
FASCV Responders: Jerry Haag (driver), Dan Wong, and Mike Garcia (guest).
-- Report submitted by Jerry Haag

Monday, February 10, 2014

Roof Collapse Results In A Unique Call for Firefighters and FASCV

Photo By John Whitaker
When San Jose firefighters answered a call for a water flow alarm at 1480 Nicora Ave., they expected to find it to be a false alarm or, at worst, a broken fire sprinkler head. The didn't imagine what they actually found!
A large portion of a warehouse roof had collapsed which resulted in a lot of broken sprinkler pipes and, hence, the water flow alarm. Arriving fire crews found a major portion of the approximately 200 x 400 square foot, wooden truss roof on the ground. Since the IC didn't know whether anyone had been inside the structure or whether its contents were hazardous, the equivalent of a second alarm was called as a Hazmat team and the SJFD USAR units were all called into action. Since it was nearly impossible to see under the rubble, a request was also made for search dogs to be brought to the incident.
The initial call came in to Dispatch at 5:03 P.M. and Fire Associates was requested approximately an hour later. Bruce Dembecki arrived in Fire Support Unit 2 and he was met on scene by John Whitaker and Kenny Needham (guest).  Later on, John Whiteside arrived in Fire Support Unit 3. Two support units were not required on scene, but John needed to transfer some supplies from one rig to another and this was a convenient location to restock the rigs.
As the search continued, it was thought that meals would have to be provided to firefighters who hadn't yet had their dinner. Rehab was set up in a corner of the property and firefighters who were waiting for the dogs to finish their search took advantage of the coffee, Gatorade, and Clif Bars that were available. The search went quicker that expected and no victims were found in the building. As it turned out, the building had been empty for a long time and was being offered for sale.
While the dogs were making their search, several FASCV members were invited to come closer to the building and watch the search operation. There were 3 dog teams conducting the search -- one from the Santa Clara Sheriff's Department and two dogs from FEMA Task Force 3, based in San Mateo County.

As it turn out, no victims were found in the structure, but that didn't satisfy the dogs. The dogs are trained to find a victim and they are not "happy" if they don't finish their task. One of the handlers asked FASCV member John Whitaker if he wouldn't mind going into a dark corner of the property, curling up, and letting the dog's "find" him. Being pressed into service as a "victim" was a little unique for someone who's usually brewing pots of coffee and handing out sandwiches! John did as instructed -- letting the dogs each find him, allowing them to bark at him loudly, and then rewarding the dog with a chew toy. It was all in a day's work! FSUs-2 and 3 were released from the scene and put back into service at approximately 9:00 P.M.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker

Two-Alarm House Fire Above Milpitas Starts Busy Day for FASCV

Photo By John Whitaker
February 10th was a busy time for Fire Associates with two calls for service spread out through the day.
The first call for Fire Associates' help came in at 10:49 A.M. The Milpitas Fire Dept. required Rehab assistance at a structure fire on Calaveras Road. Located at 3215 Calaveras Rd., the fire involved an unoccupied, single-family home that was apparently undergoing renovation. First-arriving fire crews saw a large column of smoke and found flames rolling out of the large structure.
The first report of a fire came in 8:51 A.M., and it was soon apparent that access to the fire and the location of a water supply were going to be the main concerns. The property was located up a very narrow, steep, winding driveway well back from the roadway. The equivalent of a second alarm was called as help was requested from the Spring Valley Volunteers and Cal Fire.
Eventually, two water tenders from Spring Valley, two engines from Milpitas, a Spring Valley engine, and a Spring Valley chief were located near the building at the top of the driveway. At the bottom of the driveway a Milpitas truck was used to pump water into approximately 2,500 feet of supply hose up the hill. In addition, several support vehicles as well as some Cal Fire equipment was also staged just off Calaveras Rd. Early on in the firefighting effort, Cal Fire's Copter 106 was utilized to make some water drops on the fire.
Photo Modified from Google Maps
Responding for Fire Associates was Jerry Haag in Fire Support Unit 1. He was met on scene by FASCV member John Whitaker. After initially staging near the entrance to the Spring Valley Golf Course, FSU-1 was cleared to go into the Incident Command location. Because of access problems, John rode into the scene in FSU-1 with Jerry driving. With most of the crews located up the hill at the fire scene, there was not much need for Rehab where FSU was located until lunch arrived in the form of Subway sandwiches and chips. As crews were released, they all passed through Rehab to get some well-deserved food. At that point, Rehab became very busy!
As the firefighting efforts wound down, incident command was turned over to Cal Fire who co-staffed the fireground with Spring Valley equipment and personnel. Spring Valley Engine One replaced the Milpitas truck as the primary pumping rig and several Cal Fire Type 3 Engines replaced the Milpitas equipment up near the smoldering structure. Once everyone had been served their meal in Rehab, FSU-1 was released to go back into service at approximately 1:00 P.M.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker