Daly City wall collapse

Teams: Dave Ramsay & Sandy, Tom Carney & Gypsy

Midway into a demolition project, a 100 x 20 foot concrete wall fell onto a residential street, killing a 48 year-old woman as she sat in her parked car.  It was suspected that three workers were also missing and SDF teams were called in. From Tom and Dave’s report:

“After briefing with the Incident Commander and confirming that electrical service was cut, we set to work. The fire department breached holes in areas of the slabs to allow the dogs access. Crawl space was eight to ten inches. Gypsy and Sandy did not alert, confirming that no live scent was present and enabling the fire department to bring in heavy equipment to lift the slabs and clear the street. Firefighters on scene said they could hear Gypsy running around under their feet as if her tail was on fire! As we all know she was in the intense search mode. The dogs did great and the firefighters on scene were impressed with the service they provided.”

Report from handler Dave & Sandy:

I received a call from Eric Haslam yesterday at approximately 4:15 regarding a building collapsing in Daly City. He asked if Sandy was with me and if I would be able to respond to the incident right away. Sandy was with me at the time, so we were able to head over to Daly City immediately.

When I arrived on scene Tom Carney and Gypsy were already there. Tom had told me that he and Gypsy had searched the area and Gypsy had shown interest in one spot. I sent Sandy out to search the entire area and he also showed interest in the same location but with no alert. We had some holes breached in areas we wanted to inspect more closely and had no alerts from either Sandy or Gypsy. Tom and I were confident that there were no live victims buried under the rubble. The fire department began cleaning up the wall with heavy equipment.

The dogs did great and the fire fighters on scene seemed impressed with the service they provided. I feel having the dogs on scene helped give the rescue teams more confidence that there were no live victims.

First Canine Deployment for SSFFD July 31, 2006 1630 hrs

At San Francisco Fire Department's fire station 61, a Captain was sitting at his computer when the initial dispatch went out for a "building collapse". He immediately phoned the SSFFD Deputy Chief and asked if the Canines would be of any assistance. Deputy Chief Dennin called San Mateo County Communications and asked to have this info relayed to the Incident Commander (IC). Within five minutes, Tom Carney and his Type I Canine Gypsy were enroute to the incident. I received many phone calls after Tom and Gypsy were dispatched, from guys at my fire house wondering what was going on and how they could help. This was the first I had heard of this incident. Though there were good intentions of the staff in the fire department, we had never put an automatic dispatch in the computer for canines to a building collapse.

After about five minutes I phoned Dave Ramsey and asked if he could respond as the second canine. Our Chief had said from the very beginning that he felt it necessary to have two certified canines on any incident. Dave and his Type I canine, Sandy, were in the City of Berkeley, CA at the time, about 20 minutes away from the incident, with no traffic. The problem that we faced here was, there was a lot of traffic and Dave was in his private vehicle. It took Dave close to 50 minutes to arrive on scene. By the time Dave arrived, Tom and Gypsy had already searched most of the pile.

Once Dave arrived he checked in with the IC and he met with Tom to put together a game plan. They grid-searched the entire site and then some. Both canines had a hit on this one area. The engine companies on scene removed a large section of wall leaving a 12” hole. Dave and Tom agreed that Gypsy was the right size to enter for the search. Tom sent Gypsy on a search into the hole. She did not find anything but Tom knowing his canine was able to tell all who was there that there was no reason to search this area anymore and to move on. After searching the remainder of the pile together Tom and Dave were able to go to the IC and tell him that the site had no other live victims and it was clear to bring in the heavy equipment.

Initially E-93 did not see the 100 x 20 foot section of wall that had fallen into the street. This wall fell on two parked cars, one of which was occupied by a 48-year old female who had pulled over to look at a map for directions. The other car was unoccupied. When Tom was initially dispatched there were rumors that the three crew members from the demolition company were also missing. It was not for quite a while that they learned the crew members were all accounted for. The building in question was under demolition contract and one full wall had been removed leaving three walls intact. There was a stiff onshore breeze that day pushing directly onto the wall that collapsed. The exact cause of the failure is still under investigation by Cal. OSHA.

Lessons Learned:

  • Since this incident, the SSFFD has in place an automatic dispatch of two Type I canines to any building collapse.
  • All San Mateo County Chiefs have been thoroughly briefed on canine search and the available resource within the SSFFD.
  • All SSFFD canine handlers carry an alpha pager for future info on callouts.
  • We are currently working with the staff of SSFFD to acquire response vehicles to expedite the response.

All in all both handlers said the search portion went well. Both were prepared with training and deployment gear. The IC of the Rio Verde incident was very impressed by the conduct of the handlers and canines. Everyone at this incident learned a lot and we look forward to more callouts.