“Blackout conditions”

Shortly after 11a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 30, San Jose’s emergency response received a number of calls reporting smoke pouring out of San Jose’s St. Patrick’s Church.

Firefighter Francis Ryan

The church, located at 389 East Santa Clara Street, is the second-oldest church in the Diocese of San Jose, and it served as the diocese’s proto-cathedral from 1981-1990 while the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph was being renovated.

The fire quickly went to three alarms and approximately 60 firefighters arrived to battle the blaze. The fire was reported extinguished at 12:05 p.m. At about the same time, firefighters discovered that one of their own had collapsed.

Firefighters found Francis “Frank” Ryan, a 15-year veteran of the SJFD, in a state of cardiac arrest in front of the church. NBC Bay Area reported,  “Ryan was given immediate medical attention by his fellow firefighters. They said he had no pulse and was not breathing for a time, but his ‘brothers’ brought him back to life before rushing him to the hospital.

Ryan was walking back to his rig as crews wrapped up operations when he collapsed, Fire Chief William McDonald said. He was taken to Regional Medical Center in San Jose, where he was reported to be in “critical but stable” condition.

After the fire had been extinguished, SJFD Capt. Mary Gutierrez, her voice choking with emotion, spoke with reporters. “This firefighter, at great risk today, has a pretty serious injury. Our hearts are going out to him and his family… It’s been an incredibly tough day for all of us. It’s been a tough day for the city.”

Gutierrez said that firefighters had faced “blackout conditions” inside the smoke-filled church. Eyewitnesses reported stained-glass windows cracking from the heat and plummeting to the street below. Smoke from the blaze was visible through San Jose.

St. Patrick’s today primarily serves Catholics of Vietnamese ethnicity. The pastor is Fr. Peter Loi Hunyh. The parish also has a school. School was in session during the fire, and the students were evacuated to nearby Horace Mann Elementary School. The school, which is separated from the church by a parking lot, was not harmed, and the students were allowed to return after the fire was extinguished.

Capt. Gutierrez told reporters that the cause of the blaze had not yet been determined, but that it had started in front of the church. Fire investigators are currently examining the site.

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  1. FrMichael says:

    This is a major Catholic story, even beyond the precarious medical situation with the brave fireman. According to my San Jose priest friends, that parish is San Jose’s largest parish and probably Northern California’s largest Catholic church with around 10,000 at Mass each weekend. I spoke with another priest friend, he of Vietnamese origin: he says that St. Patrick’s is considered the largest Vietnamese parish in the world.

    Do any of our San Jose correspondents have further details? Is the church usable?

  2. I am praying for Mr. Ryan, his family, the Vietnamese Church members and I am also praying the this was not arson. +JMJ+

  3. As a retired fireman with 3 decades of service I have near perfect empathy with Fireman Ryan and his family. Firefighting is a tough and dangerous business. It takes dedicated men to acomplish the task. I am sure Fireman Ryan would not trade his experience nor his job for anything less than his family….or heaven. Glory be to God for all things.

  4. According to internet sources, the fire blew out windows in the church. The school children were evacuated and none were hurt. Firefighter Ryan is in critical but stable condition and in a medically induced coma to allow him to rest.

  5. Mbûkû Kanyau Mbithûka says:

    They should stop having such big parishes. Its impossible to take care of souls in a ‘mega church’ like this

    • what ARE you talking about?!?

      i have attended mass in this very church, and it’s not huge.

      and what does your comment have to do with this brave young man getting injured?

      • My prayers are with this brave fireman and all involved. This is not a time to bicker over other things.

      • He’s talking about the blog that said ten thousand people attend Mass each sunday. max, is that a modest size church where you’re from?

        • News reports say that St. Patricks has about 450 white parishioners, 2000 Latinos, 20,000 Vietnamese and smaller numbers of black and other ethnic groups. Before the fire, there were 15 Masses on most weekends.

  6. The size of the church is unimportant. We need to pray for this man who selflessly put his life at risk to make things safe for others.
    I’m going to pray for his full recovery and for his family so they feel supported in this time of need.

  7. Firefighter Ryan is still in critical condition but he awole and asked to see a friend and was alert which is progress. Keep praying.

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