Ten fires light up the sky, block 101

HOUSE, BIG RIG WRECK, FIREWORKS TO BLAME

A big rig caught on fire on U.S. 101 south of Highway 25 Sunday afternoon, bringing a significant response from firefighters and tying up traffic for several hours. Credit: Gilroy Fire Department/Facebook

To say that Gilroy’s firefighters have been busy since July 4 would be an understatement, as the city department responded to 10 fires in less than 24 hours during the Independence Day holiday.

The action continued through the holiday weekend, as a Sunday afternoon truck fire spread to nearby vegetation and snarled freeway traffic for hours.

Five vegetation fires reported on the Fourth of July were caused by errant illegal fireworks, according to Gilroy Fire EMS Division Chief Jim Wyatt.

Perhaps the most dramatic blaze that authorities responded to July 4 was a residential structure fire in which a sheriff’s deputy cut his hand while breaking a window so he could spray water from a garden hose into the home.

That fire started about 9:54pm July 4, in the area of Cedar Court and Westwood Drive. Firefighters responded to a report that a single-story, single-family home was burning, with “light smoke” drifting from the side of the building, Wyatt said in an email.

Nobody was home when firefighters responded. Gilroy police were already on the scene when firefighters arrived, and an off-duty Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputy broke a window when he saw smoke coming from the bathroom window.

“He took a garden hose, broke out the window and began applying water where he could,” Wyatt said. “He suffered a small cut to his hand.”

The cut was the only injury reported in relation to any of the recent fires.

The first firefighter on scene forced entry into the home to begin extinguishing the blaze, according to Wyatt. The flames were quickly extinguished after firefighters set up hose lines to the source of the fire.

Two dogs who reportedly lived at the burning home were found nearby unharmed, Wyatt said.

Fire damage to the home was “limited to the bathroom and hall,” with smoke and water damage to the east side of the home’s interior. American Red Cross arrived at the scene to assist the family with shelter needs.

Other fires reported in Gilroy July 4, and early in the morning July 5, include:

  • A structure fire, possibly caused by faulty electrical wiring or equipment, about 2:30pm July 4 in the Sunrise District. The structure on fire was a single-story, single-family home, Wyatt said. Gilroy firefighters had help from the South County Fire District.

Firefighters arrived and inspected the interior of the home, where a smell of burning electrical equipment was apparent. No fire was located, but the homeowner was advised of a possibly faulty electrical appliance, for which they should seek an inspection from an electrician, according to Wyatt. No damage resulted from that incident.

  • At 8:08pm July 4, firefighters responded to a grass fire off Chestnut Street. An approximately 100-square-foot area in a dry creek bed had been ignited, apparently by illegal fireworks, Wyatt said. Firefighters quickly extinguished those flames upon arrival.

The burnt remnants of a fireworks mortar were found in a nearby tree, Wyatt said.

  • Another grass fire was reported at 8:27pm July 4, this time on Burchell Road at Hecker Pass. An area of vegetation about 50 feet by 50 feet burned before firefighters extinguished the blaze. This fire was apparently caused by illegal fireworks, according to Wyatt.
  • An “outside rubbish, trash or waste fire that included some abandoned vehicles” was reported at 9:19pm July 4 near Ferguson Road. The cause of this fire hasn’t been reported.
  • At 9:29pm July 4, another fire reportedly started by illegal fireworks occurred near Church Street at Farrell Avenue. An area of vegetation about 25 feet by 25 feet burned before neighbors put out the blaze using buckets of water. The fire was out before firefighters arrived.
  • At 10:28pm July 4, firefighters arrived to a brush and grass fire in the Chestnut District to find the homeowner extinguishing burning juniper bushes in his front yard, according to Wyatt. This fire was allegedly caused by illegal fireworks.
  • Someone purposely set two storm drains and a garbage bin on fire near Camino Arroyo. Firefighters arrived at 1:56pm July 4 and found the storm drains had been stuffed with debris and other combustible materials, according to Wyatt.
  • At 12:28am July 5, firefighters responded to a “contained trash or rubbish fire” in the Las Animas fire district. The fire was contained to a blue recycling container, and apparently started when someone discarded previously ignited fireworks into the container.
  • Firefighters responded to three shopping carts on fire at 2:04am July 5. One of the carts was near Brem Lane, and the other two were burning near Holloway Street. Each fire was set intentionally, Wyatt said. The first arriving fire engine extinguished each fire.

Big-rig fire ties up traffic

Gilroy Fire received aid from the South County Fire District and called in off-duty firefighters in response to a big rig that caught on fire on U.S. 101 Sunday afternoon.

The fire started about 4pm July 8 on the southbound side of the freeway, just south of Highway 25, according to fire authorities. The blaze extended into the grass in the center divider and spread to the northbound side of U.S. 101. About three-quarters of an acre of vegetation, along with the big-rig truck, burned before the fire was extinguished.

CalFire Air resources along with 13 ground apparatus responded to contain and put out the fire.

Both northbound and southbound lanes of U.S. 101 were closed for several hours due to the fire and response.

No injuries were reported.

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