SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Residents displaced by a destructive four-alarm house fire in San Jose Friday afternoon were asking questions about whether the outcome might have been different if the fire station directly across the street was equipped with an working fire engine.
The fire was reported on the 400 block of Auzerais Ave. south of downtown, next to the Interstate 280 – Highway 87 interchange shortly after noon.
When firefighters arrived at 12:10 p.m. they found heavy smoke and flames coming from a single-story home, which prompted for a second-alarm response, fire Capt. Christopher Salcido said.
No one was trapped inside the home, he said.
The fire reached a 4th alarm just before 1 p.m. Flames spread to at least two neighboring homes, but by around 1:30 p.m. crews had the fire under control.
While the flames spread quickly, the people living inside these homes told KPIX 5 the fire department’s response seemed, at times, both chaotic and sluggish.
“It took them a while to set up hoses. It was just kind of a mess,” said fire victim Ruben Mendoza
Their frustration was fueled by the proximity of the fire station directly across the street.
Fire Station #30 is not equipped with a fire engine, meaning it doesn’t have the ability to put even a single drop of water on a fire, no matter how close.
“They don’t have hoses. They have paramedics here. But they really don’t have the capacity to put out a fire,” said neighbor Mark Gonnerman.
The station lost its fire engine and the firefighters who run it during budget cuts in 2010.
For Friday’s fire, an engine had to be sent from Station #4 — located on Leigh Avenue more than two miles away.
Even so, the fire department said firefighters arrived just two minutes after the first 9-1-1 call. The first engine got their three minutes later.
“To the untrained eye, it is going to seem chaotic,” said Salcido. “You’re got a house on fire. We’re starting rescue efforts. We don’t know if the houses are empty or if there’s 20 people inside.”
Some of the residents were left wondering if their homes were victimized by the fire or by budget cutbacks.
“I know it’s not firefighters’ fault, said Mendoza. They’re not cutting the budget. The city is.”
Crews remained at the scene conducting extensive overhaul operations Friday afternoon, Salcido said.
No injuries were reported. The American Red Cross was called to assist 12 adults displaced by the fire, according to Salcido.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
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