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Deadly Limo Fire Highlights Emergency Response Times On San Mateo Bridge

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Limousine Burning

The limousine caught fire midway across the San Mateo bridge Saturday night. (Cellphone image from video by Roxana and Carlos Guzman)

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REDWOOD CITY (KCBS) – The man in charge of the firefighters who rushed to the scene of the deadly limousine fire on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge said he is satisfied with the response time by emergency personnel.

Michael Keefe, chief of the fire department that serves San Mateo, Foster City and Belmont, said the layout of the bridge and danger of having emergency vehicles turn around on the span make response times especially challenging.

Initially, officials said it took Foster City firefighters 11 minutes and 50 seconds to respond to the vehicle fire, which took the lives of five women who were inside.

“After we’ve had more time to evaluate the records and really accurately look at our response time on that particular incident, we went back and played the audio tapes, which are all time-stamped. And the time has been corrected to 10 minutes and 40 seconds to get on the bridge,” Keefe said.

“The nuances and difficulties of responding on a bridge and making the turnaround with cars coming at us at freeway speeds and trying to get back there safely, yes I’m satisfied with that response. I would always like for us to be there sooner than we are in any instance, but the reality is, for response on the bridge in those conditions, that seems to be a good response for us.”

Keefe said they have a standard procedure when responding to incidents on the San Mateo Bridge by sending resources from both sides of the span. But because of the configuration of the bridge, it makes any response more challenging.

“Because of the bridge, we send more resources in both directions. On any freeway in San Mateo County, typical response for a vehicle accident would be an engine, a truck and a battalion chief. Then we would send a single engine in the opposite direction,” Keefe said. “In the case of the bridge, we send double resources from both ends so we have enough redundancy.”

The California Highway Patrol continues to investigate the incident and has yet to release any information on what may have caused the fire.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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