Firefighters free snow-stranded motorists
Once the Alameda County Fire Department firefighters arrived at the Top of the World summit on Patterson Pass Road, they found a half-dozen to a dozen cars stuck in the snow for about 10-20 yards and another 100 vehicles backed up. Photo courtesy of the Alameda County Fire Department.
More than 100 motorists who were stranded on a snow-laden road in the Altamont Pass early Friday morning received a helping hand from firefighters housed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Six firefighters aboard two engines rolled out of the Alameda County Fire Department (ACFD) Station 20 at about 4:50 a.m. to respond to a call from a motorist whose car couldn’t get traction amidst the snow on Patterson Pass Road as the motorist’s car was heading toward the road’s Top of the World summit, about four miles east of Greenville Road.
“When we reached Cross Road, it became noticeable that the snow was sticking to the ground,” ACFD Engineer Jonathan Goulding said. “There were no vehicles coming westbound toward Livermore, so we knew there had to be something impeding the traffic.”
Two engines trekked out of the Alameda County Fire Department Station 20 at about 4:50 a.m. Friday to respond to a call from a motorist whose car couldn’t get traction amidst the snow on Patterson Pass Road. Photo courtesy of the Alameda County Fire Department. See the video.
Goulding, who was driving Engine 20, a 2020 Pierce Enforcer fire engine that is 31 feet long and weighs 22.5 tons, said he drove very slowly as they reached the Top of the World summit, noting there was only one point when the truck had trouble getting traction.
“I drove slowly because I virtually never drive a vehicle like this one in the snow and it’s a new vehicle for the Lab,” said Goulding, who has worked for the Alameda County Fire Department for 14 years, including nine years based at LLNL Station 20.
It is estimated that at least three inches of snow, if not more, fell early Friday morning on the summit area of Patterson Pass Road. Video courtesy of the Alameda County Fire Department
ACFD Fire Capt. David Jansen, who has been a firefighter at LLNL for eight years, said: “Once we got off Greenville Road and headed up Patterson Pass, we started seeing snow and ice on the road that built up rapidly as we went toward the summit. We parked at the Top of the World area.”
Once the firefighters arrived at the summit, they found a half-dozen to a dozen cars stuck in the snow for about 10-20 yards and another 100 vehicles backed up. Using shovels, they freed the stranded cars from the snow and ice.
“We instructed the drivers to follow in the tracks that were already made and we asked them to put their cars in first gear for driving in the snow and they were able to gain traction,” Jansen said. “In April, I will have been a firefighter for 35 years and this is the largest snowstorm for which I’ve ever done a fire response.”
Estimates are that at least three inches of snow, if not more, fell early Friday morning in the Top of the World summit area of Patterson Pass Road.
“When we arrived, our first concern was: Is everyone safe?,” Goulding said. “We were concerned about our safety and the safety of all the vehicles on the roadway. We also wanted to make sure that no vehicles had gone off the roadway to the small ravine below.
“For us, we had to put the oddness of it snowing in Livermore aside. At that area of Patterson Pass Road, you either go forward or back up. Once we got that concern out of the way, we were able to take in that it’s snowing and it’s crazy out here.”
As Alameda County Fire Department firefighters headed east and ascended up Patterson Pass Road early Friday morning, they started seeing snow and ice on the road that built up rapidly as they went toward the summit. Video courtesy of the Alameda County Fire Department
After the firefighters arrived on the scene, they contacted the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and asked the CHP to close Patterson Pass Road because of the snowy and icy road conditions. The road remained closed through the weekend.
In addition to Goulding and Jansen, one other firefighter (Michael Payumo) was aboard Engine 20. The three firefighters from Engine 8 who also responded to the snow-bound cars were Capt. Adria Aslanian, engineer Juan Perez and firefighter Stephen Mertes.
LLNL contracts with the Alameda County Fire Department to provide fire protection and all-risk emergency services for the Lab’s main site and Site 300 and has done so since Oct. 1, 2007. ACFD also provides fire protection for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and several Alameda County cities.