San Mateo County Fire Chiefs News

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The back-to-school season is a good time for administrators to review emergency plans with staff and for parents to review safety rules with their children. This fall, the Big Five is rolling out in schools throughout the county.

The San Mateo County Office of Education has been working in partnership with the San Mateo County Sheriff, the Office of Emergency Services, the San Mateo County Police Chiefs and Sheriff Association, and a community Emergency Response Task Force to create a standardized set of protocols for emergency response in schools.

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Menlo Park Fire Protection District responded to a townhouse fire in the Sharon Park area of Menlo Park on July 16th.  The fire went to 5 alarms, which included 17 engines, and 5 trucks.  There was a total of 87 firefighters from fire departments in Menlo Park, Woodside, Belmont-San Carlos, and San Mateo County. The first in engine company on the scene tried to fight the fire from the inside, but had to back out due to temperatures exceeding 500 degrees at floor level.  Two firefighters suffered minor burn injuries during this inside attack (see photo of one firefighter's face mask which began to fail because of the extreme heat).  The cause of the fire is still under investigation.


On April 29, 2009, San Mateo Fire and Police responded to a residential dwelling fire at 2810 Hosmer in San Mateo.  While units were enroute, additional calls were received for heavy smoke from the residence.

San Mateo’s first fire Engine was on scene four minutes after dispatch.  Upon arrival, firefighters reported a working fire and requested a second alarm.  The adjacent home at 2816 Hosmer, located just east of the involved structure also caught fire and sustained minor damage.    Three people were displaced as a result of the fire.  No injuries were reported as a result of the fire. Red Cross provided assistance for overnight amenities for the displaced family.

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On Wednesday, March 4th, Central County Fire Department responded to a structure fire in our downtown area of Burlingame. The building is a 3-story residential hotel above a commercial business. Upon E-34’s arrival, the building fire alarm system was activating and a sprinkler head was activated in an individual unit on the 3rd floor. Fire damage was limited to this one unit. The area of origin was identified against the west wall of this unit, around an electrical outlet near the floor. A burn pattern was observed around the bed, which was situated directly up against the west wall and electrical outlet. This particular outlet was severely burned, with several partially burned cords connected into it. Several multi-outlet adapters were used throughout the unit – daisy-chained to one another and providing electricity to many appliances in the room. The circuit breaker to this unit was found in the “tripped” position. 

All occupants safely evacuated the building and there was minimal smoke, fire, and water damage to the building.

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The following joint statement was issued today by FIRESCOPE and the Governor's Blue Ribbon Fire Task Force, The two groups consist of local fire chiefs from throughout California, the CAL FIRE director and officials from federal agencies, along with organizations representing rank-and-file firefighters.

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One smoke alarm saved four lives.  During the early hours of a Sunday morning on 6/22/08, a family was alerted by the sound of a smoke alarm. The husband investigated and found a large fire in the garage. The family of four exited the home and neighbors called in the fire. One smoke alarm saved four lives.

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First Hoseline being pulled

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Over 70% of fire deaths occur in residential occupancies, specifically in homes and apartments. Most of these deaths are not from heat or flames, but from smoke and toxic fumes. However, homes with working smoke alarms can reduce the chance of injuries or deaths to its occupants. This small unit can give you early warning of a fire in your home and allow you enough time to escape. So, follow these simple steps for purchasing, locating and maintaining smoke alarms within your home to help protect the ones you love.

  • Ionization smoke alarms contain a small amount of radioactivity that conducts electricity. Electric current flows continuously between two electrodes in the alarm. When smoke particles enter, they disturb the flow, causing the alarm to go off. 
  • Photoelectric smoke alarms contain a beam of light and a photocell within the alarm. When the smoke enters, it deflects the beam, causing it to strike the photocell and set off the alarm.

The difference between the two types of alarms is generally not critical, since the response times for each are similar. Either type will work effectively in your home. Locating smoke alarms within your home is key to making sure they will work properly in a fire. You should have a alarm inside each bedroom, centrally located in the bedroom, in the hallway close to each sleeping area, and on each floor of the home. When mounting the alarm on the ceiling, do not place close to the corners or walls. When mounting on the wall, install the alarm between 4 - 12 inches from the corner where the wall meets the ceiling. Click here to find out where to install your smoke alarms.

Test each smoke alarm at least once a month by pressing the test button or by using a smoking incense stick placed near the alarm. Replace the battery in each alarm every 6 months. If an alarm emits small short beeps, the battery may be low so replace the battery immediately. Dust or vacuum each detector periodically to ensure that dust or insects don't obstruct the alarm's openings.

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