Monday, June 27, 2016

Yet Another Vegetation Fire Brings A Fire Associates Response

Shortly before 3:00 P.M. on Monday, June 27, County Fire received reports of a car fire on Hwy. 17 near Redwood Estates in the mountains above Los Gatos. Shortly after the initial report, there were additional reports from more callers and then from the CHP of the fire spreading to the grass — and then the CHP report was, “The whole hill is on fire!” 
Additional resources were dispatched, including a full Cal Fire response, and mutual aid from Santa Cruz County, along with Santa Clara County Fire’s Level 2 brush response.
Upon arrival, Battalion 83 quickly determined there was a major threat to the homes in the area as the fire was spreading quickly in thick Santa Cruz Mountains brush. The IC requested two Type 1 Immediate-Need Strike Teams for structure protection, and Cal Fire upgraded their response, adding more hand crews and air tankers. San Jose Fire filled one of the Type I strike teams with their five closest engines, backfilling their region with resources from around San Jose. The second strike team was made up of units from Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Mountain View, and NASA Ames Fire.
From Los Gatos Boulevard a large header was visible in the Mountains and it was clear that today there was going to be a fire fight.
Don Gilbert and John Whiteside responded to San Jose Fire Station 6 and picked up Fire Support Unit 2. Traveling to the incident was problematic as Highway 17 was closed in both directions and traffic was extremely heavy. Under code 3 escort, the Fire Support rig made it way up Highway 17. Then, leaving the highway, FSU-2 made its way to Redwood Fire Station where they established Rehab.
Back at the fire fight, with aerial attack underway, there were many residences, cars, and fire apparatus covered in pink goo from above. Bulldozers went to work to create a fire break, while hand crews and engine crews were working on cutting lines and doing fire suppression. The fire had worked its way away from the highway and into the hills, but the fire-damaged trees were still threatening to fall across the highway, presenting yet another problem that would need to be resolved before the highway could be reopened to traffic.
With an incredible response, a large number of resources, and dedicated crews, the fire was contained before it could damage any residences. By around 9:00 P.M., they were able to open one southbound lane on Hwy. 17, with northbound having been opened earlier in the evening. Mop-up operations continued overnight.
The Fire Associates crew at Redwood Fire Station were kept busy in Rehab, with fire crews coming and going throughout the evening. Along with all the municipal and state crews, 5 inmate hand crews came through Rehab. 200 burritos were obtained and served for dinner, until there were no more. Fire Support Unit 2 was released around midnight and was back in quarters around 12:30 A.M.

— Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

Monday, June 20, 2016

5-Acre Grass Fire Challenges Firefighters in San Jose

Early on the afternoon of Monday, June 20, San Jose Fire dispatched units to a vegetation fire on Quimby Road, at Ranch Road. The location was at the very top of Quimby Road, in the City's eastern foothills.  
Very quickly, based upon the smoke column seen from the valley floor, San Jose units requested a Tier 2 response, which dispatches Fire Associates. John Whiteside met Don Gilbert at Station 6 to take Fire Support Unit #2. They were met on scene by George Hoyt and guest Daniel Capostagno. The fire was determined to be in Cal Fire's response area which resulted in a medium wildland response from that agency.
The fire was burning on a very steep, west-facing hillside used for grazing along the north side of Quimby Rd. The easterly side of the hill drops down into the county’s Grant Ranch Park and Mt. Hamilton Road. A driveway to a farm house at the top of the hill allowed access for units to reach the head of the fire and stop the progress. The fire was contained at 5.2 acres.
Aircraft were not utilized due to power lines crossing the scene. Among the units dispatched by San Jose and Cal Fire were 2 water tenders, 8 engines, 4 brush patrols, and 6 Cal Fire wildland engines, along with 2 dozers, and 2 hand crews. FSU-2 was released at 3:15 P.M.
-- Report submitted by John Whiteside

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Popular Businesses Lost In 4-Alarm Strip Mall Blaze

Shortly before midnight on Tuesday, June 14, San Jose Fire received reports of bushes on fire and flames showing from above the roof of a strip mall at Santa Teresa and Cahallan.
First-arriving units found the flaming trees at the rear of the complex and reported that they were impinging on the structure at the roof line. While setting up to handle the trees first-in units requested next arriving units check the roof of the strip mall.
By the time fire units arrived, the fire was already into the attic. While crews made several attempts to run a strip cut on the roof to isolate the fire from other areas in the building, the fire was moving too quickly through a common attic space. The fire spread rapidly from one end of the building through to the other, destroying all but two businesses in the main building of the mall. The remaining businesses suffered from smoke and water damage.
The Incident went to 4 alarms in less than 20 minutes from the original call. On the 3rd alarm request, Fire Associates was dispatched and John Whiteside headed to Fire Station 35 to pick up Fire Support Unit 3. FASCV President Bruce Dembecki went straight to the scene. There was a good mix of both hot and cold drinks being consumed and both Cliff bars and donuts were popular at 2:00 A.M. Assisted FASCV members on scene by guest, Walter Huber.
The 4th alarm was filled by units from Santa Clara County Fire which allowed the brand new Truck 85 to be put into service for the first time. This turned out to be the first time its master stream had been used on an actual fire.

-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Another San Jose Grass Fire Brings a Fire Associates Response

Shortly before sunset on June 12, San Jose Fire received reports of a fire on the hill near the 5300 block of Hellyer Ave. Being in a threat zone, Cal FIre was also notified. After the 5th phone call reporting the fire, Battalion 13 ordered a TIER response while initial units were still en route. 
Upon arrival, it was discovered that the fire had spread to approximately one acre of grassland. However, the grass was dry and there was a breeze pushing the fire. With a rapid rate of spread, Hellyer IC called for a TIER 2 response. Meanwhile, Cal Fire was also sending a medium response. 
On the TIER 2 dispatch, Fire Associates was paged out. John Whiteside responded with Fire Support Unit 3 while Bruce Dembecki and Bill Roth responded directly to the scene. Also on scene were Fire Associates guests Daniel Capostagno and Walter Huber. 
As the fire grew, and a potential spread of several hundred acres on the hillside, Hellyer IC escalated the incident to a TIER 3.

Fire crews were able to contain the fire at around 12 acres and at about 2 hours into the incident the fire was under control. Citizens in the area reported that a mylar balloon drifted into the high voltage transmission wires overhead, and the flames from that dropped to the grass, causing the ignition.
Once crews were finished on the hillside, they stopped by at Rehab for a cold drink and some food before packing up and returning to service.

— Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

San Jose Grass Fire Consumes Hilltop

On Wednesday, June 8, shortly before sunset, San Jose Fire received reports of a “hill on fire” at Cathedral Oaks Park in San Jose’s Almaden Valley neighborhood. With smoke showing from Station 28, the incident was upgraded to a TIER response.
Once on scene, Engine 28 requested a TIER 2 and set about making access. Access was challenging as the park was surrounded by homes.
The TIER 2 activation triggered a Fire Associates page out and Fire Associates member Bruce Dembecki responded with Fire Support Unit 2. John Whiteside responded to the area in FSU-3 and Don Gilbert met the team on scene.
The fire consumed a couple of acres of the mountain top. There were no injuries and all units were released by 10:30 P.M.
-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Vegetation Fire Escalates Into 4-Alarm Blaze

On June 1st San Jose firefighters responded to reports of bushes burning on S. White Rd. near Story Rd. While units were responding, additional reports were received indicating the bushes were threatening an auto parts store, and then that the auto parts store was burning.
Upon arrival, units discovered the vegetation had burnt into the eves of the store and was spreading through the attic. A second alarm was called at that time. Additional concerns were raised given the possible hazardous nature of some of the materials stored on the premises, and the incident was declared a Hazmat incident. Within 8 minutes of the first reports, a 3rd alarm was called.
Before the incident was controlled, a fourth alarm would be called. With so many San Jose units on scene, mutual aid was called from nearby departments to provide station coverage.
On the 3rd alarm activation, Fire Associates new dispatching system, IamResponding, was activated directly by the San Jose Fire Dispatch system, notifying our members of the need for support. Don Gilbert responded to Fire Station 6 to pick up Fire Support Unit 2, while Bruce Dembecki responded directly to the scene.
With the 4th alarm activation Fire Associates member John Whiteside responded with Fire Support Unit 3. On scene the team was met by Fire Associates member George Hoyt and guest Daniel Capostagno.
With early afternoon temperatures into the 90s around the South Bay, crews were hot and thirsty. The first four cases of water and gatorade put out for firefighters were gone before we could open the cool and put them on ice!
Store employees and customers were evacuated without incident and there were no injuries during the incident. Traffic was significantly impacted as S. White Road was closed for an extended period.
-- Report submitted by Bruce Dembecki