Saturday, August 29, 2015

San Jose Firefighters Respond to 2-Alarm House Fire

Photo By Bruce Dembecki
Date:  Aug. 29, 2015
Type:  2nd Alarm Structure - Voluntary Response
Agency:  SJS
Details: Late on the evening of August 29 a "house on fire" report was received by San Jose Fire Department. SJPD was first on scene and reported a well-involved structure, while also pointing out this house was known to PD and there was a fight in progress outside the home.
First-arriving fire crews reported fire coming out the "Bravo" and "Charlie" sides of the home and went into rescue mode to quickly ensure no-one was still inside the structure. A second alarm was called and units worked to contain the blaze to the house of origin, saving nearby properties -- notably the apartment complex on the "Bravo" side.
Photo By Bruce Dembecki
With crews struggling with a heavy interior operation on an unusually humid summer night, Fire Support Unit 2 checked in on air if rehab support was needed and was summoned to the scene. Bruce Dembecki and Mike Garcia worked to provide crews with cold drinks.
Once the fire was knocked down, a plan we worked out for overhaul and fire watch. With high humidity, the physical demands on the first in crews were so high it was decided to release them and bring in fresh crews for overhaul. Using our supplies on board FSU-2, we refilled all of Med 30’s coolers enabling Med 30 to handle the overhaul operation with the fresh crews, and Fire Support Unit 2 was released by 3:00 A.M.
-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hit-and-Run Results In Strip Mall Fire

Photo By Mike Garcia
Date:  Aug. 26, 2015
Agency:  Santa Clara Fire
Incident Address:  2035 White Oak Lane
Type:  3-Alarm Structure Fire
Details:  Strip mall. 5 businesses destroyed after hit-and-run into gas meter. FSU-1 arrived at 5:15 P.M. and was released at 9:30 P.M.
Agency Responders:
   SNC:  B Montano; Engines 94, 95, 96, 97, 99; T92; R92; M91
   CNT:  T71, BC72
   SNY:  E42, E46, BC
FASCV Responding Unit:  
FASCV Responders:  
   Mike Garcia (driver) and guests Ken Needham, Jason Black, and Rudy Sanbin
-- Report submitted by Mike Garcia

Monday, August 24, 2015

Yet Another Vegetation Blaze Keeps Fire Crews Busy

Date:  Monday, Aug. 24, 2015
Agency:  San Jose Fire
Location:  640 Epic Way, San Jose
Type: Tier 2 Vegetation Fire
Details:  Fire primarily involved trees and a small area of grass. FSU-1 arrived at 1:45 P.M. and was released at 4:00 P.M.
Agency Responders:
   Battalion 1, E19, E2, WT 2, E624, E619
FASCV Responding Unit:

FASCV Responder:
   Mike Garcia (driver)

-- Report submitted by Mike Garcia

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Two Blazes Keep Firefighters Busy Along Coyote Creek

Photo By John Whitaker
Temperatures may have cooled off a bit in the San Francisco Bay Area, but that only lessens the fire danger slightly. That fact was illustrated shortly before 4:00 P.M. on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 20, when San Jose Fire dispatchers received word of a vegetation fire burning along Coyote Creek off Remillard Ct. With this area very familiar to firefighters, I didn't take long before a Tier 1 response was requested. But, things got a little more complicated.
When first-arriving fire crews arrived on scene, a second column of smoke was visible to the north of their location. It was quickly determined that there were two fires burning and a second Tier response was initiated. Although dispatched as a second Tier 1 response, the on-scene Battalion Chief asked that the fires be treated as one incident. That meant that there was a Tier 2 compliment of firefighters and equipment on scene. 

FASCV past-president John Whitaker had been listening to the incident since the first dispatch went out on the PulsePoint app. Realizing that two Tier 1 dispatches would not result in an automatic request for Fire Associates' assistance (FASCV is automatic on all Tier 2 fires in San Jose), John contacted SJFD Dispatch by phone and asked if the IC would like a response from the organization, and if so, at which fire location. The reply was "Yes", with rehab to be set up at the northern-most of the two fires at the southern end Woodborogh Dr., near Selma Olinder Park.

After being alerted by a phone call from John, Don Gilbert responded with Fire Support Unit 2 and was met on scene by John Whitaker and aided by FASCV guest Ken Needham. As with most vegetation fires, crews were very spread out around the fire ground. So, FSU-2 was instructed to go down a dirt path and set up with crews under the Interstate 280 overpass. Battalion 1 and Battalion 2 chiefs then took a supply of cold water and Gatorade out to the other crews.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker

Monday, August 17, 2015

Two Homes Burn In Area West of Gilroy

Photo Courtesy of the Gilroy Fire Dept.
Mid-afternoon on a summer's day is not the ideal time to be fighting a fire. But, shortly after noon on Monday, August 17, firefighters had to deal with a multi-alarm fire west of Gilroy. Located at 7945 Whitehurst Rd., near Hwy. 152, two homes were eventually involved and fire  units from South County Fire District, Gilroy, Morgan Hill, Spring Valley, San Jose, and Cal Fire worked the incident.
Cal Fire Engine 69 was first to arrive and reported a working house fire with possible threat to the nearby wild land. This prompted Cal Fire's Morgan Hill Emergency Communications Center to dispatch a full wild land response to the area. Upon arrival, Gilroy Battalion Chief 47 recognized that there was no wild land threat and canceled the wild land response.
Shortly thereafter, an explosion occurred in the attached garage which caused the fire to spread to a nearby house. That prompted B47 to immediately call for additional engines and water tenders.
The combined units responding included:
Gilroy Fire:
   B47, E47, T47, E48, E49
South Santa Clara County Fire District:
   E67, WT67, E68, WT68, E69, BS768
Morgan Hill Fire:
Cal Fire SCU:
   DC1601, U1630, E1681, E1684, PRV, WILD, CO70
Cal Fire BEU:
   D4645, E4675, E4677, E4699
Cal Fire CZU:
   D1743, E1761, E1782, BNL1, BNL3, PRV, WILD
Cal Fire Air Attack:
   AA460, T80, C406
Spring Valley Volunteers:
   C901, WT901
San Jose Fire: (Provided Station Coverage)
   E18, WT18
Due to the location of the fire scene, no hydrants were available. So, additional water tenders were requested. Additionally, Fire Associates, Red Cross, an air unit, a Cal Fire hydration unit, and other Battalion Chiefs were requested.
Access to the fire scene was hampered by a narrow road running down a steep hill from Highway 152. This quickly became congested with engines, water tenders, and hose lines with only a narrow passage allowing access the scene.
FASCV responded Fire Support Unit 2 (1:18 PM) with Don Gilbert (driver) and John Whiteside (passenger). However, FASCV member Bill Roth was first to arrive from his San Martin home with three cases of water. This quick response was much appreciated by firefighters due to a shortage of hydration. Upon arrival of FSU-2, additional hydration was provided and a Rehab area was established.
Both involved structures were a total loss with families displaced. As things wound down, FSU-2 departed at approximately 6:00 P.M. 
  •  A KSBW TV8 video news report on the fire can be viewed at:  Whitehurst Blaze
-- Report submitted by Bill Roth

Monday, August 10, 2015

Car Fire Along Hwy. 101 Results in Quick-Moving Grass Fire

Photo By John Whitaker
Shortly before 1:30 P.M. on Monday afternoon, August 10, a car pulled over to the right hand shoulder of northbound Hwy. 101 near Metcalf Rd. In and of itself, that would not be a big deal. The problem -- it was on fire!
With winds gusting in the area, the blaze quickly spread to the adjacent grassland. Calls to the San Jose Fire Department had the blaze burning in a variety of locations, but responding engine crews quickly reported "...a large header rising just south of Hwy. 101 intersection with Hwy. 85." Before a Battalion Chief was even on scene, the responding engine companies recommended a Tier 2 response.
The Tier 2 also included a "heavy" response from Cal Fire. This meant that not only were many Cal Fire type-3 engines responding, but also included an air tanker, Copter 106, and a dozer. Although the air tanker and dozer were not utilized, Copter 106 made many water drops to aid fire crews on the ground.
Photo By John Whitaker
John Whitaker had been listening to the fire on his emergency radio scanner and, as soon as fire crews began arriving, he could tell that this was going to require a Support Unit response. He got on the phone and contacted Don Gilbert to see if he was going to be available when called by SJFD. He said he was and volunteered to bring FSU-2. Shortly after their phone conversation, FASCV pagers "announced" the need for a support unit.
John Whitaker went in his personal vehicle to the staging area on Metcalf Rd. over Hwy. 101. Not wanting to get in the way of firefighting efforts, and because of some blowing smoke, John remained there until Don arrived with FSU-2. By that time, things had calmed down a little bit and John joined Don as they drove up to the Incident Command center near the intersection of Metcalf Rd. and Malech Rd. Because crews were spread out all along the shoulder of the freeway, and up into the large, grassy area, FSU-2 remained on Metcalf Rd. and waited for crews to come and get re-hydrated. After a while, FASCV member George Hoyt arrived on scene along with FASCV guest Ken Needham.
With the area mostly covered by short, dry grass, and a few trees and bushes, crews made short work of the mop-up effort. Most firefighters on scene came through the Rehab area to get re-hydrated before returning to their stations. FSU-2 was released at approximately 3:45 P.M.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker

Friday, August 7, 2015

Two Fires Along Coyote Creek Keep San Jose Firefighters Busy

Friday, August 7, was a busy day for the San Jose Fire Department. 
At 1:25 P.M. in the afternoon, fire crews responded to a Tier fire burning in vegetation along Coyote Creek. Located near the address of 697 Needles Dr., this area along the west side of the creek is very familiar to firefighters. With the creek bed overgrown with dense vegetation and littered with dead or dying trees, a Tier 2 level fire was declared, mostly as a precaution in case things got out of hand.
Of course, that Tier 2 designation also brought a fire support unit. Don Gilbert went to SJFD Station 6 to get Fire Support Unit 2 while John Whitaker and Mike Garcia headed directly to the incident. But, shortly after John arrived, he made contact with the IC -- who quickly cancelled the FSU's response. Fire crews had made quick work of the blaze and were already in an anticipated short-duration mop-up phase. As luck would have it, Don had also just arrived at the fire with the Support Unit -- and he turned around and headed back to the station.
However, that was not the end to everyone's day. 
Photo By John Whitaker
At 3:59 P.M. the same day, everyone returned to Coyote Creek for another, unrelated, fire. This time, the fire was burning on the east side of the creek along Roberts Ave. -- and, it turned out to be a much larger blaze. Many of the same SJFD fire companies were called to this Tier 2 fire -- along with Fire Support Unit 2. 
John Whitaker responded by bringing FSU-2 and Rehab was set up alongside Med30 in a parking lot along the creek. Cold beverages were in high demand as already-tired firefighters were working their second vegetation fire of the afternoon in 80-degree weather. The blaze was estimated to be approximately 5 acres in size and burned along the creek bed and up the bank into some short grass.
Crews worked hard to control the blaze, but their work was not over. A very large cottonwood tree proved to be a worthy opponent for the firefighters. It was already dying and the 5-ft.-diameter, hollow trunk was burning from the inside out. A professional tree company was called to the scene by San Jose Parks and Recreation personnel and the tree was eventually felled so the interior could be accessed and the fire quenched.
However, that meant that some San Jose Fire and Parks and Rec. crews had to remain on scene for an extensive time -- long past the dinner hour. This required that John leave the fire to go to a nearby Togo's to pick up 16 sandwiches that had been ordered by the IC. Upon his return, the crews made quick work of the meals and more ice cold beverages were consumed.
As the sun was setting, firefighters wrapped up the operation and FSU-2 was returned to quarters shortly after 8:30 P.M.
It had been a long day for everyone!
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Large Home Burns In San Jose's East Foothills

Photo By John Whitaker
On Saturday morning, August 1 at 3:09 A.M., the San Jose Fire Department received a call that a house was burning in the East Foothills of the city. The address given was 3898 Vista Point Ct. But, don't look for it on any maps. It's not there! 
Due to a nearby, under-construction housing development, the residence had recently received a new driveway and a new street address. The house address had been 3811 Quimby Rd. with an access driveway off that road. But, now, access was up Vista Point Ct. -- through the new housing development. For that reason, fire crews had great difficulty initially finding access to the burning house.
Once on scene, firefighters had to lay almost 1,000 feet of 5-inch supply line as the nearest hydrant was at the bottom of the steep street and long driveway. This long lay required relay pumping by the first-arriving engine companies. Because the entire 3rd floor was ablaze and the difficult access, a second and third alarm were eventually called to the scene.
Shortly after the second alarm, the IC special-called for Fire Associates assistance with Rehab. Med30 was on scene, but Barry Ehlers reported that he eventually ran out of all the drinking water and Gatorade he had on his rig. Even though it was the early hours of the morning, firefighters were hot and exhausted because of the shear size of the fire fighting effort. The house was approximately 7,000 sq. ft. in size with many 20-ft. ceilings and was laid out with a myriad of rooms, stairways, and hallways.
Photo By John Whitaker
Bruce Dembecki went to get Fire Support Unit 2 while FASCV member John Whitaker responded to the 4:45 A.M. call by going directly to the scene. Because of the crowded conditions on the property surrounding the residence, John parked his private vehicle at the bottom of the hill and hoofed his way up to the fire. After scouting the area and making contact with SJFD's Med30, a location to park the Support Unit was determined and Bruce was able to set up as soon as he arrived.
However, the parked FSU-2 was still significantly below the actual scene of the fire. This required many trips by John and Bruce back-and-forth to the Rehab location with coolers, cases of Gatorade and water, benches, a serving table, and (oh, I forgot to mention) -- Donuts! With approximately 60 firefighters on scene, Rehab was a popular place. Once the blaze was under control and crews were being released, Rehab was broken down and FASCV members were released at approximately 8:30 A.M.
-- Report submitted by John Whitaker