Almanac

News - May 14, 2014

Portola Valley: Fire drill interrupted by dump truck crash

by Dave Boyce

A collection of firefighters, many with EMT skills, happened to be on the scene at a wildfire drill in Portola Valley around 9 a.m. on May 7 when a super-dump truck — the kind with an extra set of wheels slung up over the bed — came hurtling down Westridge Drive, careered across Alpine Road without hitting any cross traffic, crashed through a wooden fence and came to rest against some trees above the banks of Los Trancos Creek.

Fire-crew management on the scene assigned a couple of EMT/firefighter crews to check on the truck's two occupants, who, it turned out, were not seriously injured, Battalion Chief Rob Lindner of the Woodside Fire Protection District told the Almanac. The incident caused a "slight delay" in the day-long drill, he said.

About 75 gallons of diesel fuel spilled onto the ground from the truck's ruptured fuel tank, but firefighters isolated the fuel so that it did not pollute the creek, Mr. Lindner said.

The spill did pollute the ground and the wood chips scattered there, however, and the Portola Valley Public Works Department is attending to that, Town Manager Nick Pegueros told the Almanac. The affected ground will be excavated and disposed of in coordination with the San Mateo County Department of Environmental Health, he said.

Firefighters were using the parking lot at Ford Field as a staging area for the drill simulating an aggressive wildfire in communities along the border with Santa Clara County. The drill had just gotten going when the dump truck came through the intersection. "It wasn't a part of our drill," Mr. Lindner said.

The truck was loaded, perhaps with broken-up concrete, he said. Upon entering the intersection at Alpine Road, the driver veered right to avoid firefighting equipment in the parking lot, and the truck emerged from the accident with a cracked frame and significant front-end damage, he said.

Had cars or bikes been in the intersection, had the driver not steered away from the parked fire trucks, the accident could have been a catastrophe, Mr. Lindner noted. "A lot of us went up and thanked him," he said. "It rattled some nerves."

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