2 fires burn home, grassy area near homeless encampment

A San Jose home fire and a grass fire that were reported within 12 minutes of each other occurred Tuesday evening.

June 21, 2011 11:45:15 PM PDT
A home fire and a grass fire that were reported within 12 minutes of each other this evening on separate sides of the city caused a shuffling of San Jose's firefighting resources, a fire captain said.

At 6:43 p.m., the fire department received a report of smoke coming from the eaves of a home near the intersection of North Cragmont Avenue and McKee Road, Capt. Rob Brown said.

Three engines, two fire trucks and two battalion chiefs responded to the scene, and the attic fire was contained relatively quickly despite requiring "some extensive overhaul due to embers in the attic," Brown said.

The fire burned for about 20 minutes and was brought under control at about 7:05 p.m.

Firefighters forced entry into the unoccupied home and located a dog inside that was brought to safety in the backyard. Brown said the home's owner arrived before firefighters left the scene.

Early estimates indicate a loss of about $25,000 to the structure and its contents.

Twelve minutes after the home fire was reported, a grass fire near a U.S. Highway 101 off-ramp was reported across town near East Brokaw Road, Brown said.

At least 5 engines and two battalion chiefs responded to the 1-acre fire, which consumed some items from a nearby homeless encampment when it spread to neighboring trees.

"Smoldering, deep-seated pockets of burning debris" -- such as mattresses -- had to be torn apart and extinguished, requiring extra water, Brown said.

The grass fire burned for more than an hour before it was brought under control at 8:12 p.m.

Part of the problem in fighting the simultaneous fires, Brown said, was that the department's resources had to be redistributed to maintain adequate fire protection coverage across the city.

The causes of both fires remain unknown and under investigation.

Heavy rains in recent weeks followed by this week's hotter temperatures have allowed lush vegetation in the valley's grassy areas to quickly become a parched tinderbox.

"We're all on a heightened sense of alert," Brown said.

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