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

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Fire Associates Responds To Assist At Major Highway Accident


Photo By John Whiteside
Thursday, July 10, a major traffic pile up occurred at approximately 7:50 A.M. near the Alma Cal Fire Station. The site was located at Lexington Reservoir on northbound Highway 17, the main commute route from the Santa Cruz coast to the San Jose area. Multiple ambulances and fire rigs were dispatched by Santa Clara County Fire to rescue, treat, and transport victims of the 10-vehicle accident.
A two-trailer big rig hauling dirt came downhill and plowed into slowing traffic. The big rig ran over several vehicles and then, with one trailer still attached, broke through a steel and wooden post barricade. The big rig eventually stopped on the Old Santa Cruz Highway, a frontage road adjacent to Highway 17. The rear trailer detached and continued down Highway 17 for about 50 feet before jackknifing into the center, concrete divider.
Seven patients were transported to local hospitals. Sadly, there was one fatality.
At 10:57 A.M., Fire Associates members were paged to respond to the scene to support Fire, California Highway Patrol, and CALTRANS personnel doing recovery, vehicle removal, clean-up, and the CHP Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT). After several phone calls to obtain details of the service request and availability of FA responders, John Whiteside departed San Jose Station 6 at 11:40 A.M. in FSU-2. The accident created massive traffic jams, even with coned-off two-way traffic in the normal southbound lanes. En route, John encountered FASCV member Dan Wong in his POV and together they finally reached the scene at 12:45 P.M.
County Fire had forty meals delivered just ahead of the FSU’s arrival. Tables and benches were set up. Cold bottled drinks and lemonade were provided along with CLIF bars. John and Dan remained on scene until all the vehicles had been removed and the highway cleaned of debris. FSU-2 was released at 5:00 P.M., just ahead of the highway being reopened. John arrived back at Station 6 at 5:40 P.M. after refueling the support unit.
 -- Report submitted by John Whiteside

Monday, July 7, 2014

World-Renowned Los Gatos Restaurant Burns In Early Morning Fire

Photo By John Whitaker
Sometimes, being close doesn't help.

When a fire broke out at Manresa Restaurant on Monday, July 7, Santa Clara County Fire's Los Gatos Station was literally across the street. But, the 4:00 A.M. fire had a head start, and it was already a roaring blaze by the time Engine 83 got on scene. Located at 320 Village Lane in the downtown area of Los Gatos, the restaurant is world-renowned for it's gourmet cuisine.
When crews arrived, the fire appeared to be burning on the outside of the structure with extension into the roof area above the kitchen. Shortly after the fire attack began, a decision was made to go defensive as the roof was fully involved and in danger of collapsing. By the time a second alarm was called, the fire had run through the restaurant's attic area. According to news reports, the restaurant is not destroyed, but it will take some time to replace the roof and repair smoke and water damage to the interior.
Photo By John Whitaker
With the second alarm, Fire Associates was paged to respond for assistance with Rehab. Answering the 4:21 A.M. call was Don Gilbert and John Whiteside in Fire Support Unit 2. Meeting them on scene was FASCV member John Whitaker who was able to direct them to the rehab location on the corner of Village Lane and Petticoat Lane (yes, Petticoat Lane!). As Rehab was being established, FASCV president, Jerry Haag arrived on scene to lend a hand.
Lots of coffee and donuts were consumed by hungry firefighters who had not yet had breakfast and were burning lots of calories. They quickly consumed the first 2 dozen donuts, with John Whitaker taking off in his personal car to a nearby donut shop to get another dozen. It didn't take long before those, too, were gone! After all firefighters had been served and the crews were beginning to be released, Rehab was demobed at approximately 8:30 A.M.
  • More of John Whitaker's photos can be viewed at:  Manresa Fire
  • A link to a CBS5 TV video is at:  CBS5 Video
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker