Monday, June 30, 2014

Second Vegatation Fire of the Day Spreads Firefighters and Fire Associates Thin

Photo By John Whitaker
It's been in the news. The San Jose Fire Department is understaffed due to a series of budgetary issues which have been the topic of many political debates and editorials.
Well, the issue became a reality on June 30 when two large vegetation fires broke out simultaneously.
The first blaze started early in the afternoon on the hills above the Blossom Valley.  Approximately 2 hours later, with most of San Jose's fire resources deployed on this fire, a second multi-alarm vegetation fire broke out along Coyote Creek in the area of the Los Lagos Golf Course. At one point during the afternoon, firefighters from every fire district in the county were deployed to San Jose to either directly support firefighting efforts, or to back-fill the San Jose Fire Dept. by staffing stations.
For a different reason, Fire Associates units were also stretched thin - we only have 3 vehicles. Fire Associates' efforts to support the first blaze are described in another blog entry on this web page. But, in short, FSU-2 and FSU-3 were both "tied up" on the original scene, and FSU-1 is located some distance away in Santa Clara.
John Whitaker had just left the Santa Teresa fire in his personal vehicle when the Los Lagos IC asked for Fire Associates assistance. Knowing that our south county rigs were busy, he phone SJ Dispatch and offered to support the second incident from his personal, all-wheel drive vehicle. The offer was quickly accepted, and John headed to nearby Station 35 to load up with Rehab supplies.
Photo By John Whitaker
At about the same time, Fire Associates members in the north county area also heard the request for service and headed to San Jose to lend assistance. John arrived early in the event, but had great difficulty in accessing a proper spot to set up and serve the hot and tired firefighters. The fire was spread out for some distance along the creekbed, which was lined on both sides by a chain link fence.
By the time John had finished scouting the area, Mike Garcia and Jerry Haag arrived in staging with FSU-1. After some radio discussions with the IC, it was determined that rehab should be set up in a corner of the parking lot at the golf course clubhouse near a gate to a bike trail along the creek. Even with this description, accessing the proper location at the golf course wasn't obvious.
Once rehab was established, FASCV members went about their usual operation of determining firefighters' needs and then meeting those needs. On a day when temperatures were in the low 100-degree range, that need was mostly hydration. After being on scene for approximately 1 hour, the IC decided to establish two rehab areas - one on the east side of the creek and one on the west side. Sandwiches had been ordered for dinner, and they needed to be distributed to crews who were very spread out all over the fireground. John stayed on the east side with his personal vehicle and Mike and Jerry went over to the west side to support the crews located there.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker

125 Acres Burn In the South San Jose Foothills

Photo By John Whitaker
The afternoon of June 30 was HOT with very little breeze.
At 1:45 P.M., the San Jose Fire Department received multiple calls of a vegetation fire burning low on the north side of the Santa Teresa foothills. San Jose escalated the response to a Tier 1 (one alarm) and with units en route reporting a large, increasing smoke column, upgraded to Tier 2 almost immediately.
John Whiteside had been closely monitoring fire radio activity due to the heat (100 degrees at 1:30 P.M. at his home), and responded to San Jose Station 35 to drive Fire Support Unit 3 to the fire. Located south of Curie Dr. and west of Cottle Rd., the blaze was about 2 miles from the station. A Tier 2 request for Fire Associates was received a few minutes later.
John loaded all the ice he could manage and took FSU 3 to the fire at 2:20 P.M. Meanwhile, John Whitaker started from his home to the fire, and Don Gilbert, monitoring the fast moving fire (already at 10 acres) went to get FSU 2. Don responded to the Almaden Valley side of the fire since it was burning over the hilltop. Randy Whiteside soon arrived to assist his father, John. The unified Command Post was set up at the intersection of Curie Drive and Curie Court.
Photo By John Whitaker
At 1:46 P.M., Morgan Hill Cal Fire dispatched a high-level response of at least 14 engines, 4 dozers, 2 water tenders and 5 hand crews, plus multiple air tankers and copters. San Jose went to a Tier 4, plus requesting a Type 3 engine strike team from Santa Clara County Fire for structure protection on the Almaden Valley side at Scenic Vista Drive. Other departments within the county sent engines to assist San Jose at the fire and for station coverage. FSU 3 soon was totally depleted of its load of about 12 cases of liquid drinks, and left the scene to return to nearby Station 35 to replenish liquids and ice and then return to the fire.
While all this was happening, San Jose had another large brush fire erupt 6 miles away. John Whitaker left the Santa Teresa incident to provide liquids (using his personal vehicle) to the crews at the new fire located in Coyote Creek off Tuers Rd. Later, FSU 1 from Santa Clara responded to assist at that fire. (See a full report in a separate blog entry.)
Because the Santa Teresa fire was located south of the hillside canal, the fire was deemed a State Resource Area and, therefore, a Cal Fire responsibility. However, fire units already on scene continued the firefight, regardless of their agency affiliation. Cal Fire arranged for dinner to be catered and as crews demobilized, they passed through the food line for a delicious, hot meal! Crews were on scene all night and throughout the next day.
The fire covered 125 acres with no structures lost. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries. John Whiteside and FSU 3, the last FSU to be released, returned to Station 35 at 10:00 P.M. It made for a long, hot day!
-- Report submitted by John Whiteside

Friday, June 27, 2014

Early Planning by FASCV Members Resuilts In Quick Response

Photo By John Whiteside
On Thursday, June 26, Don Gilbert and John Whiteside discussed the fact they would be the only drivers available for the southern portion of the county until Sunday morning and agreed to a response plan if dispatched.
The next afternoon, at 2:05 P.M., San Jose Fire dispatched a full first alarm to a four-plex located at 778 Warring Drive, with a cross street of Playa Del Rey. Included with the dispatch was a report of possibly one person still inside the mostly two-story structure. A second alarm from San Jose was quickly requested and eventually a third alarm was dispatched. The third alarm request was filled by Santa Clara County Fire Department’s Los Gatos fire stations due to other calls being worked by San Jose fire crews.
Don had been monitoring the call and alerted John, who was doing his Friday volunteer work at the Cal Fire's Morgan Hill Emergency Command Center. With both FASCV members listening to the radio traffic, the fire sounded like it would escalate in alarm level. When John heard the third alarm being struck, he began the drive back to San Jose to pick up Fire Support Unit 3 from Station 35. Don drove to Station 6 to get FSU-2. 
Photo By 111th Aerial & Architectural Photography
They were met on scene by FASCV member Dan Wong and guest, Ken Needham. Benches were set up in the shade for Rehab and with the hot weather, lots of cold bottled water, Gatorade, lemonade, and CLIF Bars were dispensed during the 3 hours that the FSUs were on scene.
Elevated master streams from Trucks 9 and 13 were used extensively as well as multiple ground hose lines to extinguish and prevent spread of the fire to adjacent four-plexs. A steel roof made access and extinguishment difficult, especially after the roof collapsed. Eleven people were displaced and provided assistance by the Red Cross.
The FSUs were released around 1800 and returned to their quarters. Don had to replenish the depleted ice supply at Station 6 before he could clear the call and return home.
 -- Report Submitted by John Whiteside

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Blaze Destroys Two Homes in San Jose's East Foothills

A fire destroyed 2 homes in the eastern foothills of San Jose on June 19, 2014. Around 4:20 P.M. on this Thursday afternoon, an initial report of a fire in the grass at 13950 Clayton Rd turned into a blaze that destroyed two homes on the property, as well as 2 additional buildings, and several vehicles. Approximately 1.3 acres of grass and trees around the buildings was burnt, and a spot fire consumed about a half-acre up the hill towards nearby neighbors.
San Jose Fire responded a TIER 2 wildland response after a sheriff helicopter reported the blaze involving a house and garage had spread to surrounding grass and shrub. In addition a medium Cal Fire response resulted in Copter 106 and 8 Cal Fire crews responding to the conflagration.
With the TIER 2 called, San Jose paged out Fire Associates and John Whiteside responded with Fire Support Unit 2 to the incident. John was met at Fire Station 6 by Bruce Dembecki who accompanied him up the hill. On scene the Fire Associates members were met by a guest, Kenny Needham.
Fire Associates members worked the two active fire grounds bringing cold drinks to the crews. Late in the evening, meals were served before crews were released. Fire Support Unit 2 was back in Station 6 by 10:15 P.M.
-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Two Homes Involved In 3-Alarm Sunnyvale Inferno

Photo By John Whitaker
Date and Time: 06-18-2014, 0945 hours
Agency: Sunnyvale Public Safety
Incident Address: 945 and 949 Lantana, Sunnyvale
Type: Third Alarm
Details: Fire in two-story, moderate-size, single-family dwelling. Severe damage to building of origin and similar home on the “D” exposure. Two elevated streams and a street jack master stream used to overcome a very well-developed and fast-spreading fire. Fire in the “D” exposure became deep seated in the attic space and required lengthy overhaul.
Agency Responders:
SNY: E-41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46. 243, 244; T-41, 42; R-42
SNC: HM-99, T-92
CNT: Station coverage.
FASCV Responding Unit: FSU-1. Arrived: 1030; Released 1600.
FASCV Responders: Haag (driver), Dembecki, Garcia, Whitaker, Williams, and Wong.
-- Report submitted by Jerry Haag

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tier 3 Vegetation Fire In San Jose Challenges Firefighters

Photo By John Whitaker
Date:  Monday, 6-16-2014
Agency: San Jose Fire
Address: Kelly Park, Parking Lot area; near Phelan Ave. at Senter Rd. intersection.
Type: Tier 3 Vegetation Fire
Details: Fire involved approximately 2 acres of grass and light brush along Coyote Creek, east of the History Park area at Kelly Park. It apparently was started accidentally when heat from a contractor's truck ignited the tanbark or mulch it was unloading. The fire quickly spread to the surrounding dry grass. A Calk Fire medium response was initiated on the Tier 3 alarm, but all but a few units were cancelled en route. Copter 106 was also on scene, but it, too, was released after a couple of fly-by reconnaissance laps.
FASCV Unit: FSU-2 (Gilbert, driver) and FSU-3 (J. Whiteside, driver; R. Whiteside, passenger)
Other FASCV Responders: George Hoyt and John Whitaker
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker

Friday, June 13, 2014

Neither Rain, Nor Snow, Nor Heavy Traffic Shall Stop A Fire Associates Response

Date and Time: 06-13-2014, 1543 hours
Agency: Palo Alto Fire
Type: Special Call
Details: Vegetation Fire. Jerry Haag was moving toward the temporary quarters of FSU-1 at the home of Mike Garcia’s mother in Sunnyvale in anticipation of a request for services by the Page Mill IC. Even with that jump, the unit did not arrive on the scene of the Command Post for nearly an hour. It was a long slog through rush hour traffic just to get to the foot of the mountain and then several miles of uphill curvy road. Most units had been released by that time but water service was provided to about a half dozen firefighters.
Agency Responders:PAF, CalFire (including air resources)
FASCV Responding Unit: FSU-1. Arrived: 1655; Released 1710.
FASCV Responders: Haag (driver),
-- Report submitted by Jerry Haag

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

FSU-1 Responds to Milpitas Industrial Fire

Date 06 -10 - 2014

Agency: Milpitas Fire
Incident Address: 1000 Yosemite Dr.
Arrived: 1017 Released 1325.
Type: Industrial fire
Details: Larson Pallet and Crating fire was in the sawdust collection system - a 40-foot high hopper that dumps into an 18-wheel trailer.
Agency Responders:
Milpitas Batt. 186, USAR 86, E-86, 87, T-86, T89
FASCV Responding Unit: FSU-1.
FASCV Responders: Mike Garcia (driver)
-- Report submitted by Mike Garcia

Monday, June 9, 2014

San Jose Apartment Burns On A Very Hot Afternoon

Photo By John Whitaker
The afternoon of June 9th was a hot one in San Jose. So, when a call came in reporting a balcony fire spreading into the attic of an apartment building, a quick response was of necessity. Located at 3269 Shadow Park Place, in the south-eastern part of San Jose, the apartment was part of an 8-plex building. The first-arriving fire units found two balconies were ablaze with the fire spreading into the interior of the structure and the attic space.
Firefighters jumped on this fire very quickly as the facades of all the apartments in the complex were sheathed in cedar shake shingles. As the firefight progressed, a small blaze did break out on a building across the driveway from the involved structure. The roof of that building was quickly laddered and the small fire was extinguished.
It was at this point that a second alarm was struck and a call was made for Fire Associates assistance. Since afternoon temperatures were well into the 90s, hydration of firefighters became an important concern. John Whitaker had been listening to the incident on his scanner and he and John Whiteside quickly conferred by phone. With John Whitaker living 10 minutes away from the fire, John Whiteside volunteered to respond in FSU-3 while John Whitaker went straight to the fire scene.
Rehab had already been established by SJFD's Med-30 by the time the Support Unit arrived. The two Johns quickly replenished Med-30's water and Gatorade supply and a couple of gallons of Countrytime Lemonade was mixed up. Several cases of liquid were consumed by thirsty firefighters. Meals were ordered from Togo's and John Whitaker was dispatched to pick them up. After a brief misunderstanding on how many sandwiches were ordered, John returned to supply hungry crews.
FSU-3 stayed on scene until the very last firefighters returned to quarters.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker