Broadway and Ocean View Operations
Oakland Division G

Engine Companies 1, 8, 29 and 36
Hose Tender 8
Battalion 3

Strike Team 1, led by Battalion Chief James M. Tracey, was initially assigned to Hiller Dr.and Tunnel Rd., but while en route was redirected by Department radio to state Highway 24 and Old Tunnel Rd. in Oakland.

The strike team crossed the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge without a CHP escort, but was stopped at Interstate 680 and state Highway 24 where that agency had blocked the roadway.

The CHP then led the strike team from the roadblock to the Oakland command post at state Highway 24 and Broadway St.

"We arrived at about 1 p.m.," said Battalion Chief Tracey, "and we were the only firefighting apparatus there. It was eerie -- very smoky in the area -- almost like night.

"I reported to an Oakland battalion chief, [Reginald J. Garcia] who was in a buggy. He requested us to go up Brookside Dr., via Broadway St. to protect the College Preparatory School from fire.

"As we were about to leave, I told all members of the companies to exercise extreme caution and not to over extend themselves in these extreme fire conditions.

"I walked up Brookside with Oakland Fire Captain [Gerald A.] Flom. He knew the water system in the area. It was extremely smoky and windy, and the fire was rapidly moving downhill in a north-northwest direction. The firefront was about 200 yards up Brookside and running toward the Oakland command post, which was then located in the middle of Highway 24. The fire had already jumped Highway 24 in some places.

"Foliage -- possibly oleander -- in the median strip of Highway 24 caught fire just about 50 feet from the command post.

"I directed the officer of Engine 1 [Lt. Robert Imbellino] to take the apparatus up Brookside to Eustice to begin operations there because there was a hydrant at the corner.

At this point, it was so smoky and hot, and firebrands were swirling in the air. I then directed Engine Companies 8 and 29 up Brookside to surround the school because of the danger.

"I left Temporary Chief's Aide Raemona McGregor with my buggy at the command post on Highway 24 to provide us with communications. Oakland command provided her with a runner, and this helped pass information between us and them."

The Oakland command post also directed Engine Companies 3 and 36 of the San Francisco strike team to the opposite side of state Highway 24, near Reata Ct. and Chabot Rd. to stop the conflagration where it had jumped the eight-lane freeway. Engine 8 was sent to the area of Buena Vista and Brookside Dr.

Around 1:30 p.m. the wind speed began to greatly increase and "suddenly," said Battalion Chief Tracey, "the fire was bearing down on Engine 1. A burning house had collapsed at Brookside near Eustace -- almost on the corner -- and it had fallen into the street. It brought the wires down -- it was amazing -- the brush behind Engine 1 then ignited from the embers thrown from the burning house, but the crew couldn't see the fire. It was so hot that it flashed over just like inside a fire building, and I ordered Engine 1 to immediately get out."

Engine 1, which also carried the crew of Engine 29, was driven through swirling, cyclonic winds which drew in burning embers and pushed along the firefront. "I ordered the engine to go about 1,000 feet north on Brookside," said Battalion Chief Tracey, "and to connect to another hydrant and begin operations to protect structures there.

"They gave me companies with experienced people, so I wasn't so much concerned about their firefighting capability as their safety while they operated in this conflagration zone," he said.

"At about 1:30 p.m. I requested an additional strike team from San Francisco by Department radio, and then Oakland command asked me for another strike team. I told the dispatcher on our Control 1 that `the fire is completely out of control,' and that Oakland was also asking for an additional strike team for a total of ten engines.

"I then requested a 2,000-gallon water tender from Oakland command," he said, "and they provided one from a private company, and that was used to supply engine 1 which was then about 1,000 feet north on Brookside. We were trying to keep this fire from running in a westerly direction and destroying more residential structures."

At about 2 p.m., the wind switched to a southeast direction and the firefront began to move in a southwesterly direction. This wind shift saved all the structures in the area.

"I walked down Brookside Dr. at about 2:30 p.m. to the command post and told the Oakland incident commander that the firefront was sweeping in a southwesterly direction. I suggested that the fire attack should be made along the front of the conflagration that was advancing on Ocean View Dr."

The Oakland incident commander again asked for an additional strike team from San Francisco. This request was relayed directly by Battalion Chief Tracey on the Department radio to Central Fire Alarm Station.

Battalion Chief Tracey was then given command of Division G by Oakland's Director of Fire Services P. Lamont Ewell, who was at the command post and, "Oakland assigned to me a strike team composed of engines from Marin County, Oakland Engine 15, as well as San Francisco Engine Companies 1, 8 and 29," he said.

Chief's Aide McGregor remained at the command post to provide the vital communications link between San Francisco fireground operations within the conflagration zone, Oakland command, San Francisco command at the Claremont Hotel and Central Fire Alarm Station.

"At about 4 p.m.," said Battalion Chief Tracey, "I established the Division G command post at Ocean View and Margarido Dr. and then directed the Marin County strike team, operating under Battalion Chief Waterberry, to begin operations at Ocean View and Manchester Dr. where the fire was jumping from building to building.

"At least nine houses were fully involved in fire there -- all in the 6000 block. The fire was moving west, sweeping uphill from Brookside Dr. toward Ocean View, and it was taking everything in it's path. We were in danger of being overrun by the conflagration.

"Before we started attacking the fire, I told company officers that I'd be watching the safety aspects of the operation, and to `keep listening to your Department radio.' I was prepared to have them drop everything and get out if that conflagration swept down on us, or if the wind changed direction.

"At this time," he said, "I was told by Captain [Jeffrey L.] Davis of Oakland Engine 8 said there was a 20-inch main on Broadway at Ocean View which he said was equivalent to one of our [Auxiliary Water Supply System] high pressure mains, so I ordered Chief's Aide McGregor to request San Francisco command at the Claremont to special-call a hose tender with five-inch hose from San Francisco. She relayed the message by Department radio and the hose tender was sent.

"The fire began to move swiftly from Manchester Dr. toward Margarido in a southwesterly direction, and a large home would become fully involved within ten minutes of catching fire.

"I could hear PG&E gas meters exploding in the area; they would just go `pop' and then continue to burn with flame up to three feet high. I also heard tires exploding on automobiles parked inside burning garages.

"I was watching a mansion at 6001 Margarido," Battalion Chief Tracey said, "it had a shake roof and there was a little smoke curling from it, apparently caused by pre-heating.

"I had Firefighter [Earl] "Bud" Dunn, the driver of Engine 1, take off the hose-reel line and try to hose down the roof. I had him just hit it with as much as he could. It was like nothing. The roof was gone in five minutes, and the entire building was gone in ten."

The Marin County strike team saved homes at 6065, 6067 and 6075 Manchester Dr., and also a home at 6126 Ocean View Dr. with water provided by Oakland Engine 15 which had taken a hydrant at Ocean View and Margarido Dr.

Lieutenant Frederick C. Walsh was the officer of Truck 8 which was placed out of service on the orders of Chief Postel to staff Hose Tender 8. Hose Tenders 8 and 15 crossed the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and were staged at the Claremont Hotel. Hose Tender 8 was then detailed to Battalion Chief Tracey in Division G, and arrived there at 3:45 p.m.

The crew from Engine 8, which had just returned from saving the College Preparatory School, and the hose tender crew began to lay 3,000 feet of five-inch line from Broadway St. and Ocean View Dr. up to Margarido Dr. The crew of Engine 29, which had just come from Brookside and Buena Vista, also assisted with the hoselay. They also dropped portable hydrants along the way.

Lieutenant Walsh, the officer of hose tender said, "When we arrived, we laid hose ramps across Broadway and put out the hydrants along Ocean View.

"We had to hand-carry five-inch hose down to Engine 1 on Margarido," said Lt. Walsh, "because we did not want to block the street with the apparatus. We had a lot of people from Naval Air Station, Alameda there, and they helped us carry 50-foot bundles of three-inch and 100-foot bundles of five-inch. There were about 10 or 12 guys helping us, and they were wonderful. They also carried the Gleeson pressure reduction valves and the portable hydrants," he said.

"Engine 8 took the hydrant at Broadway and Ocean View," said Lt. Mark Kearney. "We led three lines into a wye which supplied the five- inch hose that was extended up Ocean View to Margarido." Engine 8 later developed mechanical difficulty and was replaced at the Oakland hydrant by Engine 29.

Engine 8 was then brought up Margarido Dr. by Firefighter Steven P. Jones.

"There was a dire need for three-inch hose," Firefighter Jones said, "so I took the engine up to Margarido, and stopped in front of 6050, and made a big-line lead from one of the portable hydrants and went right past Engine 1."

"As we dragged the line up the street," the firefighter said, "a house began to burn at 6000, so we made a lead across the garden and up the steep uphill slope between houses. We then wyed the line and took two one-and-one-half inch lines up into the area and saved at least five houses. We stopped the head of the conflagration at 5921 Margarido."

Lieutenant Kearney said, "I had my company take two big [three-inch] lines off Engine 29 and attach them to a Gleeson valve which they had already attached to the portable hydrant, and two leads were led. One was a supply line to Engine 1 The other was wyed, and two one-and-one-half-inch lines were led into the back yards and on to rooftops for structure protection.

"Then I had one of my firefighters take another Gleeson valve from Engine 1 and attach it to another outlet on the opposite side of the portable hydrant, and extend two large line leads with more hose from Engine 29. One of the big-line leads supplied a company of Fremont firefighters who had walked over from the Oakland command post. We put them to work in the 6000 block of Margarido."

Lieutenant Walsh's crew -- composed of firefighters Tom Posey, Dan Casey, Joe Naldo, Jim Favero, Don Russo and John Cheung -- began to attack fires in exposure buildings along Margarido, and went from one structure to another to put out fires.

"We were on one roof and we had just taken some hose when Engine 8's relief valve stuck," said Lt. Walsh. "The pump operator couldn't jack up the pressure. That's why [Engine] 29 took over for [Engine] 8. In that short time span we kept running out of water. Once that was solved we just moved from one roof to another.

"There were about three of us who went up on one roof that was real hot. I was debating whether we could make a stand on this one roof that was 3 or 4 houses down from 6050 Margarido," said Lt. Walsh. "The fire was jumping houses, and it was so hot on this roof that it felt like standing in front of a barbecue for 45 minutes. We took off our shirts and hosed ourselves down it was so hot, but we were able to make a good stop," he said.

The crew of Engine 36 made stops farther south on Margarido.

By 5 p.m., firefighters along the line were exhausted, and Battalion Chief Tracey said, "I requested the San Francisco command post to begin the relief of the firefighters.

"There was a sudden loss of water pressure from the five-inch system at about 7 p.m. The driver of Engine 29 told me on the Department radio that the line had been severed at Broadway and Ocean View. There was an Oakland mini-pumper with us at the command post, so I had that unit loaded with bundles of five-inch hose and sent down to Engine 29. We had water back in about fifteen minutes."

Lieutenant Walsh's crew had just climbed to the roof of an exposure building with a one-and-one-half-inch line when the five-inch supply line ruptured. "We had to back off because some guy from [KPIX] Channel 5 broke the hose. The Oakland engine had a supply from another hydrant and was able to put up a water curtain to protect us, and they were hitting it pretty good," Lt. Walsh said. "This was the hottest part of the fire that I remember."

The five-inch line ruptured when driven over by a television news van. An Oakland Police Department radio car later drove over, and ruptured, another five-inch hose section at Margarido and Ocean View Dr., but there was not a full loss of water pressure. That hose was also replaced.

"At 9 p.m., the winds suddenly dropped to nothing," said Battalion Chief Tracey, "and we began to get actual control of the area, and a Department van arrived with 15, maybe 20 personnel to relieve firefighters on Margarido. The only thing wrong was that they did not send any company officers, so I requested officers or a battalion chief to respond."

At about 9:30 p.m., Assistant Chief Hickey and Battalion Chief Seyler came to survey the area. "I saw that they had their area pretty much controlled, Assistant Chief Hickey said. "They had laid a five-inch line down Ocean View to Broadway and supplied all the units," he said. "They did some great work up there." He then returned to the Claremont Hotel to assume the command of Oakland Division C at 10 p.m.

Battalion Chief Frisella, Capt. John M. Payne, Capt. Douglas L. Gooden, and Lt. Michael Bonnel later arrived from the San Francisco command post at the Claremont Hotel in a Department van to take charge of the relief firefighters.

"I turned my command over to Dave Frisella," said Battalion Chief Tracey.

"I assumed command of the companies along Margarido which were working off the five-inch lead. They were just beginning to overhaul 6012 Margarido when I arrived," said Battalion Chief Frisella.

He said, "I was assisting Oakland units quite a bit, because they were trying to extend leads into buildings for overhaul operations. At one point, I asked the Oakland command post for a fuel unit to assist Oakland Engine 29."

"The condition of our crews was of concern to me, and I sent a relief crew down to Lt. Dan Dente on Engine 36 at Rockridge Pl. and Rockridge Pl. South. His crew was pretty well beaten up; they were tired and wet and had been wearing Scott's the whole time," said Battalion Chief Frisella.

"During the night," he said, "we began to overhaul buildings where we saw smoke coming off rooftops. We knocked down all the existing fires there, and an Oakland captain said he could take care of the rest of them.

"We picked up the five-inch hose line and then I sent Engine Companies 1, 8 and 29 back to the Oakland command post. A Department van took the firefighters to the San Francisco command post at 2 a.m., and I was sent home at 4 a.m.," Battalion Chief Frisella said.

Broadway Terr. and Duncan
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