San Bruno Station No. 52 Has Total Recall

Firefighters didn't wait for dispatch, the explosion in San Bruno literally knocked on their station door

By Liza Meak
|  Sunday, Sep 11, 2011  |  Updated 4:34 PM PDT
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The first station closest to last year's San Bruno explosion faced a towering inferno with very little water -- only 20 seconds at first -- then searched for water from another source on the grid.

The first station closest to last year's San Bruno explosion faced a towering inferno with very little water -- only 20 seconds at first -- then searched for water from another source on the grid.

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First responders train their entire career for moments like the one that happened in San Bruno September 9, 2010.

And for the firefighters at Station No. 52, the emergency was right out their front door. The fire house sits on the corner of Earl Avenue and Sneath Lane, which is just steps away from the explosion.

They didn't wait to be dispatched to this emergency; instinct took over and they raced toward the flames.

"The fire was so immense that it looked like it was directly behind the station," said San Bruno Battalian Chief Charlie Barringer. "The fire was literally going across rooftops of my whole view of the Crestmoor neighborhood."

Barringer and his team were the very first emergency officials to arrive on the scene and arrived within one minute of the blast. He said between 25 and 30 homes were on fire and dozens of people were running away from the area with terror on their face as they ran toward the flames.

"In the 25 years of the fire service, you get snapshots of people’s faces, of people evacuating, and I’ve never seen that much terror on people’s faces in my entire career," Barringer said.

Barringer and his crew, which included Capt. Dave Davis, lacked the one thing they needed: water. The hydrants went dry in a matter of seconds because the force of the explosion blew up the nearest water main.

"So at that point it’s major frustration for about two seconds, and then you gotta go to Plan B," Davis said.

Plan B was to tap into a different water grid, but that took precious time.

"This is our town, this is our city, these our our people and we’re going to do everything we can to help ‘em," Barringer said.

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