Fire chief: ‘By no means was it OK that their system was
Fire Chief Fred Cheshire said nearby hydrants weren’t in working order for a house fire – which started around midnight Friday and damaged much of the residence while leaving nobody injured – and that the cause is under investigation.
The five occupants of the Mission Oaks mobile home escaped injury as they were alerted to the fire by a smoke detector, and a man in the house got everyone out and called 911. Cheshire stressed the importance of a smoke detector, noting there was a bedroom in the fire’s vicinity.
But the chief also revealed that another pair of important safety devices – the two closest fire hydrants – were not in working order at the scene.
“No water was being produced by the hydrants,” said Cheshire, who hastened to add that his department had plenty of its own. “Three units responded with 500-gallon tanks, and when as I was inbound I heard the issue with the hydrants, so I requested a reserve unit with a 750-gallon tank.”
He noted that firefighters used 900 gallons of the 2,200 available.
“By no means was it OK that their system was down,” Cheshire said.
Fernando Gonzalez, manager of Mission Oaks Mobile Home Park, denied that the hydrants had been out of order. When told the information regarding the hydrants had come directly from Cheshire, Gonzalez repeated that the hydrants were fine, said he was busy and hung up the phone.
County Code Enforcement Officer Mike Chambless told the Free Lance that mobile home parks are out of his jurisdiction.
“I showed up at 2 a.m. and put red tags on the building,” said Chambless, referring to the stickers placed on structures classified as condemned and unsafe to enter. “But the state showed up the next day and put up their own red tags.” He explained that the state is responsible for mobile homes because they are classified as vehicles – and that it can be difficult for inspectors to get to all the parks.
“There is one guy for all the mobile home parks in San Benito, Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Clara County,” said Chambless.
Chris Anderson, chief of field operations for the state’s Division of Codes and Standards of the Department of Housing, said the park’s most recent hydrant permit application should have been denied in January because it came in without a flow test that needed to be signed off by local fire officials.
“Normally, we would have held the renewal and required the form, but it was inadvertently renewed,” said Anderson, noting how the lead inspector was at the park Friday. “Some repairs were being done.”
He said the inspector reported the following: “The park had a permit for the repairs, and the fire department was aware that the repairs were being done, and those repairs, most likely, are why those hydrants were not working at that time.”
Anderson also pointed out the repairs likely were fixing whatever problem responsible for the missing flow test on the park’s requested permit.
Despite the malfunctioning hydrants, firefighters had the needed water to extinguish the blaze. Cheshire said the fire, still under investigation, started on the outside of some storage items.
“The items and a vehicle in the carport were well involved by the time we arrived, and the fire had reached the exterior wall,” he said.
Cheshire reported that the fire crew did an excellent job of “maneuvering an attack line to continue an offensive attack,” which means they got inside the house and used fire hoses to extinguish the blaze around the hole it had burned into the home and they “fight it back to its point of origination.”
Red Cross responded to the scene at 1 a.m., comforting the family and making sure they had relatives with which to stay. With the damage, the family can’t occupy the home for some time, said Laura Kershner, public support director for the local chapter of Red Cross.
Article 6. Fire Protection Standards for Parks
Private Fire Hydrant Compliance For Park Operation.
Private fire hydrants shall be tested and certified at least once every five (5) years for minimum water flow as prescribed in section 1316 of this article, as well as for operation as specified in subsection 1316(b) of this article. Certification shall be submitted to the enforcement agency and to the fire agency responsible for fire suppression in the park as required in section 1319 of this article.
By the numbers
Smoke alarms sounded in roughly half of the home fires reported to U.S. fire departments.
– 65% of reported home fire deaths in 2000-2004 resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
– No smoke alarms were present in 43% of the home fire deaths.
– In 22% of the home fire deaths, smoke alarms were present but did not sound.
– The death rate per 100 reported fires is twice as high in homes without working smoke alarms as homes with working smoke alarms
– An estimated 890 lives could be saved each year if all homes had working smoke alarms.
Source Fire Analysis and Research Division-National Fire Prevention Association