Residents mobilize in case of sudden fire

Fire hydrants in the Oakland Hills are ready to go and be used, but only if you know how to properly use them. On Saturday, we met members of the Rockridge Terrace Homeowners Association who just learned how to do it.

Today was Harry Thorne's first time handling a fire hose.

Harry moved to the Oakland hills in 1956. He rebuilt his Buena Vista Ave. home after the 1991 firestorm that destroyed 3,500 homes and killed 25 people. On Saturday morning, he joined his neighbors to learn what to do when another fire erupts.

"If everybody knows how to use the equipment and the equipment is available, we're ahead of the game," says Steve Mathews.

Steve Matthews trained with Oakland Fire's CORE program, Citizens of Oakland Respond to Emergencies. On Saturday, he taught others how to hook up a hose to a hydrant.

First, you take the cover off.

"One of things the fire department told me is that right after you do this operation, reach inside any loose material you might find," says Mathews.

Then, just crew on the adapter.

During the Oakland firestorm, out of town fire departments didn't have adapters that fit Oakland hydrants. That has now been changed.

A y-connector screws onto the adapter for one or two hoses. Attach the hose. Attach the nozzle. Then, two people must man each hose. Don't let go because the hose may flip around and hit someone.

Even Oakland firefighters stopped by. They were impressed, but pragmatic.

"With these hoses, this is good if you can catch something in the insipient phase but once things start going, it's time to get out of here and egress and that's what we try to preach. Know your limitations with what you have here," says Lieutenant Gregory Bell of the Oakland Fire Department.

"It gives me a sense of power to handle that hose and to know that we could make a difference," says resident Sara Katz.

The neighbors all pitched in to purchase the equipment and the CORE program is run through the city's fire department.

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