As the Fed assists in investigating Home Depot fires in San Jose, industry experts share insights into the process

San Jose, CA (KGO) – In an effort to get a better idea of ​​what fire investigators are doing to find the cause of the massive fire of five alarms on Saturday that burned down a home warehouse in San Jose, ABC7 News spoke with industry firefighters.

While ATF researchers scanned the site, firefighters industry experts said bringing in federal agents would ultimately mean additional resources, more experience and additional tools to help uncover a cause.

“I think it’s just a good and smart move to call the ATF, FBI, for whoever you want when you have such a significant fire,” retired Manlo Park Fire Department chief Harold Sheflehuman told ABC7 News.

With decades devoted to firefighting services, Sheffieldman described the fire as aggressive and unusual for a large box store.

Related: Fed on the ground at SJ Home Depot to help investigate fires

“Aggressive, angry. I mean, there are a lot of words to describe when you watch that page come out of there, with dark black smoke. But you know, you have a facility that has a lot of vertical storage and racks, and a lot of flammable products, right? It’s everything from propane sheets, through materials Roofing up to, you know, gluing up to trees, “he added.

He anticipates that they will have to stabilize walls, clear paths and more – preparation required for the long investigation ahead.

Video: Pets at a nearby business rushed to a safe place during the SJ Home Depot fire

“Sometimes it’s a bucket every time you take out such a building – of soot and ash and debris – to try to dig into where you think the starting point was, and determine the cause,” he continued. “So you know … how long does it all take? As long as it takes.”

“They will be very flooded, will work 12 hours,” Stan Fernandez said. “Shifts of eight to 12 hours.”

Fernandez is an adjunct professor in the San Francisco City College Fire Technology Program.

In echo of Sheflehuman’s support for the assistance of ATF agents, Fernandez shared: “They understand fire behavior, evidence gathering, forensics, the intensity of different types of fires.”

“Not just fire, but explosions,” he added. “They come from all the different ethnicities of specialization – electrical, structural. They do scene processes, interviews and all that.”

When asked about the Home Depot site itself, Fernandez told ABC7 News that the big challenge is going to be to establish safety when the roof is gone.

Video: Huge fire ripping through Home Depot in SJ

Inside the store, he described what would be considered in the investigation, “There is the heavy fire load- every box store will have a heavy fire load. You look at the product distribution, the aisle space, where it was relative to where the initial fire started, how it did- how it moved. There are things that take into account ventilation, the ventilation factor. “

Fernandez explained that the investigation into the Home Depot fire probably extends far beyond the physical fire scene.

“They have to collect a lot of data,” he said. “When I say data, I mean it comes from countless areas. It comes from the people from interviews, eyewitnesses, cameras inside the store, outside the store, passers-by … they have to interview these people.”

Related: Crews continue to turn off hotspots in San Jose Home Depot after massive fire destroys building

The ATF and San Jose Fire asked people who were at the Home Depot when the fire started to stabilize and hand over their bill.

Witnesses who spoke with ABC7 News claimed there was no immediate fire alarm and no sign of active sprinklers. The fire brigade said that everything was under investigation.

“In this case, if it’s really true, there is no repression within the sprinkler systems … it’s like, what happened? Was it flooded? Is it not enough? Or was it off? I think these are the things that the fire department – now with the help of ATF – going out and arriving at some point, “Shefelhuman shared.

He added, “You can flood sprinkler systems – and we’ve seen this before in large warehouse facilities – meaning the fire gets so big, the capacity of the sprinkler system does not exist to be able to turn it off. So it’s a design problem, it’s a flammable load problem, it’s a code problem “And all of these are real factors.”

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When this time came, he said that what was eventually identified could lead to extensive improvements.

“It’s not like it’s the only Home Depot in the country, is it?” He added. “No one is looking to duplicate it.”

Back at the joining of the ATF agents in the fire investigation, Sheflehuman shared, “I think it’s an exemplary move, whoever did it. They got beaten up many years ago in a row fire in Santana for not asking for ATF. So, I do not. “That, I hope it was not. I think it’s just a good smart move.”

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