News - September 15, 2010

Local firefighters help out in San Bruno

by Dave Boyce

Local firefighters played a role in fighting the massive residential fire that began with the explosion of a gas pipeline at 6:24 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 9, in San Bruno.

A message to the southern end of the Peninsula came in almost immediately asking for a water-tender group of four water trucks. The Woodside Fire Protection District provided a 3,000-gallon tender and four firefighters from Station 8 in Portola Valley, according to Battalion Chief Don Romero.

Other participants in the group were the Kings Mountain and La Honda fire stations, staffed by trained volunteers, and the Skylonda station, which is staffed by firefighters who work for San Mateo County under contract with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Mr. Romero said.

The Menlo Park Police Department had two officers on the scene for duties as needed, Chief Bryan Roberts said.

Chief Harold Schapelhouman of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District said that he and about 14 other members of his team were at the fire at one time or another. They went on a voluntary basis since commanders on the scene did not request more firefighters from this far south of the action, he said.

In addition to Chief Schapelhouman and several of his deputies, there were a logistics specialist, a fleet mechanic, and three men from the Menlo Park-based California Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 3, he said. Some of the men, including himself, worked all night.

They helped map the scene, including counting and locating burned vehicles with a GPS, doing an initial count of damaged structures, damage assessment, and pumping out a crater 15 or 20 feet deep, Chief Schapelhouman said.

"Typically, we don't self-dispatch," he said. He and his deputies made themselves useful as part of the integrated command structure "to manage a complicated and complex environment," he said.

"I have to tell you," he added, "I don't think I've ever seen a fireball that big." It measured some 800 feet across and 200 feet high, he said.

For firefighters on the scene in San Bruno, there was a lot of checking for and extinguishing small fires, Mr. Romero said. "You want to make sure you don't get a wildland fire out of this."


Posted by Concerned Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Sep 16, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Is this the Fire Protection District that is still in contract talks with the board? Think God for these firefighters when you need them. Let's not forget this during these talks.

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