Cupertino street sweeper explodes on Stevens Creek Boulevard


Claire Chang

On November 30, between 12:15 and 12:30 p.m., a street sweeper caught on fire and exploded on the side of Stevens Creek Blvd., near Peet’s Coffee and Panera Bread. The explosion sent pillars of smoke into the sky while firefighters, police officers and public works employees arrived on the scene to put out the fire, closing off a portion of the street.

A street sweeper catches on fire, causing the driver to pull to the side before it exploded. No one got hurt, but the explosion attracted many passerbys to stop and look. Photo used with permission of Lisa Yoell.

The captain of the Santa Clara County fire department, Jim La Fuente, oversaw putting out the fire and conducted an investigation into what caused it in the first place, which he did not disclose for official reasons.

“[The truck driver] noticed that there was a fire, so he pulled over,” La Fuente said. “Luckily it didn’t get the building on fire, and now we’re just waiting for the tow truck to come, hook it up and take it away. The people at the coffee shop waved and he noticed something was not right, so he pulled over at this curb. Nobody got hurt.”

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A Santa Clara County firefighter uses a hose to wash away debris on the remains of the explosion. The firefighters, along with police officers and public work employees helped facilitate traffic and clean up the mess. Photo by Aanchal Garg.

The customers and staff in Peet’s Coffee, one of the buildings closest to the explosion, witnessed the truck pull over, catch on fire and explode. Lisa Yoell, a barista at Peet’s Coffee, saw the truck driver walk into the coffee shop with a fire extinguisher, making her wonder what was happening outside.

After she had finished with customers, Yoell went outside to see the truck on fire. She was outside when it exploded.

“You actually felt the air pressure,” Yoell said. “That was the weirdest thing. You first felt the hot air and then the air pressure blow past you. My ears were rattling and I was a little shaky. Everyone was in shock, because it’s definitely not something that you see every day.”

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Santa Clara County fire department captain Jim La Fuente convenes with other firefighters in front of Pete’s Coffee. Many of the cafe customers and employees saw the explosion as it happened through the window. Photo by Aanchal Garg.

Besides the firefighters and police officers, there were several trucks and employees around the site of the explosion from Cupertino Public Works, which provides infrastructure services of city-owned properties like streets. According to the Public Works Supervisor of the Street Division, Brad Alexander, the Public Works department often helps the police force and firefighters clean up and block off the streets during situations like these.

As part of their clean-up process, the Public Works employees created sand barriers around the drains to prevent diesel and oil from the truck from draining into the bay. A second street sweeper was expected to come after the exploded truck was towed away to clean up excess water and substances from the truck on the street.

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The Public Works department constructs sand barriers to prevent diesel and oil from the debris from going into the storm drain. According to the supervisor of the Street Division Brad Alexander, the department often helps to clean up and block off the streets. Photo by Aanchal Garg.

Although the incident was strange and unusual, the firefighters were able to put out the fire quickly with no damage caused to the buildings on the street, like Panera Bread or Peet’s Coffee.

“You definitely don’t see big trucks on fire, especially not on Stevens Creek in the middle of Cupertino,” Yoell said. “Just another day in Cupertino.”