Category Archives: Wildland

CalFire Air Ops up close – VIDEO

Our good pal Dylan, noted BlogStalker, childhood Explorer Scout friend and Chief Programmer at GasdaSoftware got a surprise while out back the other day:

 

CalFire was responding to a slow moving fire that proved difficult to access on Sept 3rd.  It was on site of the Concord Naval Weapons Station, a deactivated WWII munitions depot primed for development if anyone can figure out how to remove all the ordinance. While we could smell the smoke at HMHQ Dylan, from Gasda Software, had a far better vantage point.  I’d be curious to hear the pilot’s thoughts about all the kids at the edge of the pond.

 

And yes, that’s a separate helicopter.

 

Thanks for the video Dylan!

Explosion hits close to home

As you all know by now a community in the Bay Area City of San Bruno was rocked by a pipeline explosion around 6:45 PM local time.

I first learned about it via twitter, of all things, and immediately went to the news.  There was no coverage yet, so we listened to our radios and heard early reports of an explosion.

Then the tweets started to mention a plane crash and word spread quickly.  As the news began to show aerial shots it was clear from first glance there had not been a plane crash, nor a gas station on fire, as some residents were reporting.  Clearly one of the methods of coping with the complete destruction of your neighborhood by fire is to think of something you saw in a movie.

As we watched on TV from the firehouse, the SFFD responded an entire alarm assignment to assist in what was going to be a full night of firefighting.

Many communities came together as one force for good today.  City, Town, State and Federal teams, as well as private contractors from the local utilities, ambulance companies and certainly law enforcement and highway patrol all had their own duties, but to see how quickly resources were being mobilized made my head spin.

On twitter, I’m suddenly being RT’d (Retweeted) by folks from outside the area trying to get news.

I was asked what kind of plane crashed and if the gas station was still burning.

As fast as resources gathered to confront the gas pipeline explosion and aftermath, rumors and RTs of RTs were spreading half truths and guesses from all over the world.

Indeed the first images and descriptions came via social media, but we must remember to take into account who is giving us the information and where they may have come by it.

It is easy to hit that retweet button when you see something neat, but when it includes information that can not be confirmed or does not cite a reference, confusion can mount.

As I’m writing this at the firehouse, we still have 3 engines, 2 trucks and a Battalion Chief at the scene.  We were listening to the channel for awhile and even heard the crash truck from the nearby airport report they were full with 4500 gallons and ready to help.

I’ll be passing along what information I have, but am very interested to meet some of the responders at next week’s Tak Response Conference.  Imagine a conference specifically about inter-agency co-operation and training happening so close to such an event.  The information fresh in the minds of all persons involved will be an amazing learning opportunity for us all.

If I can, I want to get some of them a Seat at the Table on Wednesday the 15th and get their side of what happened.

Stay safe,

HM

You Make the Call…Man Hole Fire…My Call

You Make the CallWell, shoot. When I first got hired our training Captain put up a shot of the Tokyo gas attacks and asked us the two best ways to handle such an incident.  People were running everywhere, others lying in the street.

He let us think about it for a few minutes, then let us in on the secrets to dealing with large incidents.

Option #1 is to reach over the center console while pulling out of the station, grab the steering wheel and pull.  The rig hits the door and you’re out of service in quarters, send someone else.

Option #2, if you forgot #1 and found yourself on the scene, was to calmly remove your coat and helmet and blend in with the crowd.

All kidding aside, this is a situation many firefighters will not encounter.  In my area we have large underground electrical vaults that serve as relay points for the City’s electrical systems.  More than once these have failed, caught fire, exploded etc.  hey, it’s electricity, a thousand different things could happen.

The important question, and the reason I shared this photo of an actual vault fire, was to get us all thinking about that first radio report and request for resources that can establish the tone and response over the next 30 minutes.  they say the first 3 minutes of a large incident can dictate the next 3 hours and I believe it.

My Department also has resources specifically designed and staffed to handle these incidents so I simply have to relay to the Battalion Chief that I have a vault fire and the system does what it has to do.

But, here would be my initial actions if that was not the case:

“Control, this is Engine 99, we are on the scene of what appears to be an underground fire, smoke showing.  We are staging upwind at 5th and Main, establishing 5th Street Command.  Strike a full first alarm and have them respond from the south to 5th and Main.”

You get the idea.  The point is to convey what you can without getting too wordy, but get resources rolling, including higher ranks to co-ordinate further response.

I would use the PA to get bystanders away and set up a perimeter, stretching a line part way there to protect persons who wander in if something happens.

That’s my call.