Monday, September 9, 2013

Pretty Big House Ka-Boom

Pretty big for us anyways. All of the house ka-booms that I have responded to over the years involved a wall or two pushed into the back yard accompanied by a small fire. This one was a little more spectacular. Two damaged exposures, one with an established attic fire added to the original mayhem.

Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. Unfortunately, I didn't bother to get up when my phone advised me of the incident so I didn't get down there until an hour into the incident.

What I saw when I first got there:
 click to enlarge

The remains of a single story, single family dwelling blown into the street, yards and neighbors yards. I'm just guesssin' two thirds of the house was blown into smaller pieces and displaced by a dozen feet or more. Some of it much more. What was left in the original footprint of the house had decisively burned. I was told that the flamage visible in the above image was from the destroyed/damaged gas meter. As it was in very near proximity to the bravo side exposure, the combustibles near it had to be kept cool. The boot spent a lot of time on that hoseline until the Gas Co. could get the supply shut down. 

Another guess is that it was a pretty impressive sight when Eng. 8 arrived on scene. Exposures were the priority, all of the stuff that needed to be done gobbled up a fair amount of resources. People were busy for quite a while.

It has been a while since I have been able to get out and shoot. In fact, this is the first real incident that I have shot since the first week of August. It took a while to get some things right, some things I didn't figure out until after I got home and viewed the images. Sorry, I am still learning I guess.

The two Eng 8 firefighters on the exposure line. You can see how close the gas fire is to the bravo exposure. Though the bravo exposure doesn't look it, it was heavily damaged by fire as well as the blast. The attic fire was well established and gobbled up pretty near a full alarm to get it under control.

Sunrise over the fire ground. From the morning of my first "all nighter" until this very day, I have always received energy from the sky slowly gaining light and color in the east. Part of it must be a natural reaction to the dawn, part of it must have been that a brightening sky meant shift change was only a few hours away.

Spaghetti for breakfast. Yummy.

The Dragon slayers from Arlanza. Arlanza is the 'hood where I grew up, my folks still live there. In a sense, these are the guys that watch over my peeps. I think they were the first engine in on the second alarm.

As the sky grew brighter, the devastation became more apparent. As destroyed as that house was, it couldn't overpower the beauty of the sky.

You have to admire the roof sheeting that was blown into the tree. Nice touch. BTW, all of that debris was blown into the back yard, none of it was moved there.

And still, the boot was on the hoseline.

The Gas Co. showed up with a crew to shut off the supply. They had to find the plastic supply pipe, gig it up and then pinch it off. It didn't take as long as you might think.

The Deputy Chief showed up (2nd from left), along with the relief Battalion Chief. The original BC got to go home.

It must have been a slow news day. Every L.A. channel showed up, both on the ground and in the air. I can't even begin to tell you how many people have told me that they saw me on the news that morning.

Our PIO had his hands full.

Even though the house was supposed to be vacant, one can't be sure these days. An HRD dog (Human Remains Deceased) from our USAR team was called in to check for any bodies that might have been in the rubble. Dublin is one of three dogs that this handler owns. He also owns Hunter, also an HRD dog and Blue a live rescue dog. 

Thankfully, no hits were made.

Everybody loves the Dog. I love the dog, even Gigi Graciette loves the dog.

 After Dublin failed to detect any bodies buried in the rubble, it was time for the Fire Investigation team to move in and sort things out.

A gas leak was suspected as the cause of the blast, the home was being renovated at the time. When I left, the scene was still being investigated. As of yet, the cause has not been determined pending further investigation.

The debris field extended in excess of 100 feet in all directions. The neighboring houses absorbed most of the debris on the sides, but the street to the front was covered in roofing tiles, glass and other items. The photo below is of some glass that was blasted into a wooden fence over 100 feet from the house.

Thankfully, no one was hurt. Someone walking in front of the house at the time of the explosion would likely have been seriously injured if not killed.

After shooting combined with standing by for over four hours, I was tired and hungry so I opted to leave. I am guessing there was personnel out there for most of the day. That's what perfect about my role, when I am done, I leave.

Well done to A shift, they did a good job making some sense of order from intense chaos. Thanks to them for letting me shoot. Thanks to you for reading.



  1. Glad to see you're back out shooting Capt. Schmoe!

    YYC (Flight) Dispatcher

  2. You've got some really great photos there :)

    Do you mind if I make a small suggestion that could lift your photography a bit further?

    Get lower down.

    At the moment, you are shooting nearly all your images from head height - and judging by the angle of some of those shots, I'm guessing you are reasonably tall.

    However, if you started taking some of your shots from waist height, or kneeling down, you will find many of the photos will be more dramatic and have greater impact.

    Give it a go and see how you get on. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by how effective it can be :)

  3. Okay Cap, this brings up a question for me.

    How do you handle shift change on the scene of a multiple company event?

    I assume that if one or two companies are on scene of something small at shift change they just finish the job, collect a little OT and the relief crew gets in a little extra housekeeping time back at the station until they get back. But for an event that's gone to multiple alarms where you have several companies and they'll be on scene for some time past shift change that won't work. Does the FD run a bus service from the scene to the stations?

    And it's good to see you're back on your feet and in the field Cap.

  4. YYC - Thanks, Its great to be back out there!

    Kim - Thanks for the advice. I am still learning and I am so far behind on the learning curve. I'll take any advice that I can get!

    BGM - A bus service would be nice. A lot of the stations have some sort of support vehicle that is used to swap out crews if necessary. Either a sedan or a crew cab pick-up. The chief can shuffle crews as can the Squads. Sometimes, another support vehicle and member such as the USAR Captain can use one of their vehicles to facilitate shift change. In essence, we do what it takes. Trust me, the boss makes sure that OT is kept to a minimum (as he should) and the process is done as efficiently as circumstances allow.

    Thanks for the comments.

  5. Frightening, and oddly awe-aspiring at the same time. Lunging towards that level of decimation is too much for an ordinary man, but you folks made it through and purged the fires. Kudos to you all. I just hope all those families are insured, or are at least in the position to get themselves insurance.

    Marlin @ All State