Fire department stretched too thin last week

All seven of Visalia Fire Department’s units were dispatched to eight calls in a one-hour time frame

VISALIA – Firefighters were stretched beyond their limits last week, and it had nothing to do with the pandemic.

Between 4 and 5 p.m. on Jan. 6, the Visalia Fire Department received eight calls requiring firefighter/paramedics to respond to the scene. The overlapping calls proved one too many for VFD, called on outside fire departments, the Visalia Police Department, Southern California Edison, The Gas Company and Service Master, a private cleaning company offering fire recovery and restoration services, to properly respond to calls until the VFD could spare enough man power to pick them back up, according to a released statement by Battalion Chief Darrin Hughes.

The rash of emergencies began at 4:07 p.m. when firefighters responded to smoldering insulation at a home in the 3800 block of West Judy Avenue. The carbon monoxide alarm sounded at the residence alerting the residents to evacuate. Upon arrival, firefighters began seeing some smoke outside the house and called in a first alarm, sending two additional engines, a fire truck and a battalion chief to respond.

The ceiling and insulation above one of the rooms were removed and overhauled after covering the contents within the room. Other fire units arrived and assisted in the overhaul process until all of the smoldering material was removed. The burning material was contained to the one room, but due to the damage to the electrical in the attic area, the utilities remained off causing the residents to relocate and stay with another family. Damage to the contents of the house was estimated to be worth $5,000 due to heat and smoke and there was approximately $10,000 in damage to the house.

The cause of the fire is undetermined, but started in the attic area. In all, 16 firefighters responded to the alarm.

Within 10 minutes of the alarm, firefighters were also called out to a two-car crash at the corner of Burke Street and Laurel Avenue. The impact sent one of the vehicles off the road and into a fence near the front door of a home. One of the drivers was injured and required some medical attention.

This was followed by multiple medical aids and a debris fire that threatened a vacant house, dispatching all seven Visalia Fire units to calls within the hour.

“Visalia Fire units were able to respond to all of the calls, but for a short time during this hour there were no fire units available to handle any further calls while awaiting mutual-aid assistance,” Hughes wrote in his statement.

Compost material mistaken for gas leak

At 5:05 a.m. on Jan. 4, residents in the area of Goshen Avenue and Willis Street reported a possible natural gas leak. Firefighters arrived and noticed a pungent odor in the area. When the source of the odor could not be found, two more units and the gas company were called in to help with the search. VFD also asked the city’s public works department to search for broken or backed up sewer lines as possible sources of the odor.

During the search, unknown organic waste material was found in the front yard of a residence in the 500 block of West Goshen Avenue. This material had a strong odor that was shoveled into a green waste container and then taken to the street for pick up. Battalion Chief Darrin Hughes said homeowner was unaware of the smell. Just after noon that same day, a similar smell was reported four blocks away at a business in the area of Floral Street and Oak Avenue. Hughes said the business was not open and had not been for some time but someone had put the waste into the can. The waste in both of the cans was removed and disposed of by the city’s solid waste department.

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