Fire Buffs promote the general welfare of the fire and rescue service and protect its heritage and history. Famous Fire Buffs through the years include New York Fire Surgeon Harry Archer, Boston Pops Conductor Arthur Fiedler, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and - legend has it - President George Washington.

Paterson Riverside Station - Photo by Dr. Thomas Dayspring

Friday, February 9, 2018


On May 7, 1934, two Paterson firemen - John O'Neill of Engine 9 and Allen Saal of Truck 3 - were fatally injured when a wall collapsed the St. Bonaventure Lyceum at Carlisle Avenue and Ramsey Street. The fire at Box 413 went to three alarms. Several others were injured. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018


Jan. 22, 1938 blaze at Hotel Manhattan. Photo: 
Major fires struck Paterson's Hotel Manhattan on three occasions, one of which resulted it the death of a firefighter.

On May 24, 1920, firefighters used life nets to catch guests leaping from the hotel after a blaze broke out in its laundry room.

Several people were injured, including Firefighter William Smith who ``suffered a severe laceration when he fell 50 feet from a ladder after he had carried a woman and a man to safety,'' according to The New York Times said.

Box 14 at 237-243 Market Street was struck at 2:50 a.m. and went to three alarms.

On March 31, 1931 and again on Jan. 22, 1938, the hotel was the scene of three-alarm  fires,  according to

At the 1931 blaze, David Johnstone, engineer of Engine 8, was uncoupling hose when a car plowed through fire lines and struck him down, according to the Paterson Evening News.

The driver, Anthony DeStefano, was charged with reckless driving and atrocious assault.

Johnstone died April 2 at the Paterson General Hospital.

Four other firefighters - Andrew Swords and Edward Heintzeman of Engine 6, Edward Christensen and John Hill of Engine 9 - were overcome by smoke at the 1931 fire, according to the Paterson Morning Call.

Friday, January 19, 2018


Explosion at Napp Technologies in Lodi  April 21, 1995 
Mallinckrodt Chemical Works, Aug. 14, 1973 

Excerpt from The New York Times, April 22, 1995

LODI, N.J., April 21— An old chemical plant in the heart of downtown Lodi exploded and burned this morning, killing four workers, injuring eight others, forcing the evacuation of nearby homes and sending a dense plume of toxic black smoke over much of western Bergen County.
The blast at Napp Technologies, which had a history of environmental violations and workplace accidents, was described as an industrial accident, apparently tied to a malfunctioning mixing vat for chemicals. Residents were urged today to keep their windows closed, and their children and pets off the street in case smoke from the plant was dangerous.
Over the last 25 years, many said, there have been several explosions, some minor and some major, that have rocked the block-long row of factories that have housed several chemical companies. One accident in 1973 at the Mallinckrodt Chemical Company killed seven workers.
"How do they let these chemical companies stay right in the middle of town?" asked Linda Tedesco, who lives near Napp Technologies.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


On Oct. 21, 1963, an explosion leveled Franklin Finishing, a textile dye house at 178 Keen St.

On March 12, 1938, five Paterson firemen died at a general alarm fire at the Quackenbush Co. department store warehouse - greatest tragedy in the fire department's history.

On Sept. 3, 1953, fire crews contended with a three-alarm blaze at 80 Pennington Street

Assorted 20th Century incidents in Paterson, both major and minor:

  • On March 29, 1901, fire destroyed the offices of the Daily Guardian newspaper at Broadway and Washington Street. ``The Guardian did not miss publication,'' as the rival Morning Call lent its presses, according to The New York Times. Both papers are now defunct. Acting Assistant Fire Chief Sweeney and Fireman Peter Shane were injured at the blazes. Sweeney sprained his ankle in a fall and Shane was overcome by smoke and tumbled from a ladder, The Times said.
  • On June 21, 1901, fireworks exploded in a shop and tenement at 440 Main St., killing 17 people.
  • On Feb. 9, 1902, The Great Fire of Paterson swept the city's business district. The flames, which broke out at a trolley barn, were fed by the wind.
  • On April 1903, fire destroyed tenements at 919, 921, 923, and 925 Main Street, The New York Times said.
  • On July 11, 1909, ``All the fire engines of the city but one were at work fighting a fire on River Street, in the heart of the business district, this afternoon, when a false alarm drew the remaining engine across the river,'' The New York Times said. ``Immediately came an alarm for a fire in the southern section of the city.''
  • On March 18, 1911, fire destroyed the Folly Theatre ``soon after the matinee audience had dispersed,'' The New York Times said. ``Pat White and His Gaiety Burlesquers were playing a three-day engagement at the house, and all their costumes and other properties were burned.''
  • On Dec. 15, 1912, ``a fire started in some of the flimsy Christmas stuff which filled the J.S. Diskon Department Store, at the northwest corner of Main and Van Houten Streets,'' according to The New York Times said.
  • On Jan. 16, 1914, fire destroyed the Paterson Opera House. 
  • On Dec. 22. 1915, ``Eight persons, five of them women, were rescued from the fourth story in a $30,000 fire in a store and tenement house,'' The New York Times said. ``One woman, Mrs. Abram Smith, became hysterical and jumped to the third story roof of an adjoining building and suffered several minor bruises.''
  • On June 6, 1927, ``Thirty patients, all men, of St. Joseph's Hospital were carried tonight by seven policemen and twelve citizens from the west wing of the building while firemen called by two alarms extinguished a fire in the wall of the basement below,'' The New York Times said.
  • On June 23, 1930, eight workers suffered burns in a benzine explosion at the Paterson Fur Dressing Co. at 196 Madison St., according to The New York Times.
  • On Sept. 9, 1930 - Fire destroyed the Lamond Robertson Carpet Mill on East Fifth Street.
  • On Dec. 10, 1934, fire swept the St. Bonaventure Monastery on Ramsey Street. Firefighters used ladders to rescue three friars from the roof, The New York Times said. Box 413 was sounded at 1:37 p.m. and went to four alarms.
  • On Nov. 10, 1936 - Paterson police arrested a 26-year-old unemployed waiter after ``five fires in the early morning and nineteen others, one of which caused the death of a man, had terrorized part of this city since last May,'' The New York Times said.
  • On Dec. 23, 1937, heavy smoke poured from a basement fire and routed shoppers at the Silver Rod Drug Store, 133 Main St., The New York Times said.
  • On Feb. 17, 1949, ``Seventeen persons were felled today by chlorine gas in the Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Association building,'' The New York Times said. ``Police said a pipe connection came loose while workmen were removing the chlorination system, used to purify water in the swimming pool.''
  • On March 22, 1952, four children died in a fire at 27-29 Peach St. Fire Chief G. Hobart Strathearn said youngsters playing with matches apparently started the fire, The New York Times said.
  • On Feb. 18, 1960, a private plane crashed on the front lawn of a house, killing two persons ``as gale winds and a blinding downpour of rain and snow'' lashed the region, The New York Times said.
  • On March 11, 1962, a pregnant woman ``clung to a third-floor tenement window'' to escape a fire and ``plunged to the pavement seconds before a rescue ladder could reach her,'' The New York Times said. She survived the fall as did her fetus.
  • May 18, 1963, ``Three prisoners in a cell block in the Paterson police headquarters died of smoke poisoning in a fire early today,'' The New York Times said. ``Thirteen other persons, including two firemen, were overcome and required hospital treatment.''
  • On Oct. 21, 1963, explosions demolished Franklin Finishing Co., a textile dyeing factory, and damaged nearby homes. Box 656 for 178 Keen Street was transmitted at 12:33 p.m. and went to a general alarm.
  • Aug. 14, 1964, rioting erupted, and police and firefighters contended with rioters hurling fire bombs and debris. Paterson Mayor Frank Graves warned that he would "meet force with force."
  • On May 14-15, 1965, a general alarm fire burned out of control in a neighborhood of homes and factories. Box 268, at 256 Marshall Street, was sounded at 10:33 p.m.
  • On Oct. 22, 1966, fire destroyed seven stores in downtown Paterson and damaged several others at 190-194 Market St. and 1-11 Clark St. Box 145 was transmitted at 2:45 a.m. and went to four alarms.
  • On Oct. 27, 1966, construction worker Robert Penn, 44, rescued six people from a burning building, leaped from a third floor window - and caught his wife after she jumped, according to United Press International.
  • In June and July 1968, rioting broke out.
  • On Dec., 10, 1968, an arson fire killed six people at the Midtown Hotel on Park Avenue.
  • In, October 1971, the city was the scene of another outbreak of rioting.
  • On Aug. 2, 1977, a stainless-steel vat exploded at a dye house, killing three workers and injuring about a dozen more.
  • On April 29, 1978, the Fulton Street Fire - a general alarm at Box 151 - devoured mills and adjacent buildings as well as three fire department vehicles - Engine 2, Engine 5 and Battalion 2. Hundreds of firefighters from across North Jersey provided mutual aid.
  • On July 4, 1978, fire swept five downtown apartment buildings, injuring three residents and three firefighters and leaving 40 families homeless, The New York Times said.
  • On Feb. 8, 1980, fire destroyed police headquarters.
  • In February 1980, the city was plagued by the ``arson alley'' fatal fires.
  • On Oct. 15, 1981 an arson fire killed eight people at an apartment building at 89 Park Ave.
  • On Oct. 18, 1984, a general fire at the Alexander Hamilton Hotel and killed 15 people. The fire was set by a resident.
  • On Oct. 8, 1985, a three-alarm fire broke out at the Kirker Chemical Co. in the city's Riverside district and forced the evacuation of 200 residents.
  • On Jan. 17, 1991, a general alarm fire broke out at 161 Main Street - the building that once housed the Meyer Brothers department store - and spread to about a dozen other businesses. The conflagration claimed the life of a Paterson firefighter. The body of John A. Nicosia, 28, a member of Engine 4, was recovered two days later. (For a complete list of Paterson firefighters lost in the line of duty, see the article entitled "Last Alarm.")
  • On Oct. 20, 1997, a tractor-trailer loaded with chemicals caught fire on I-80 in Paterson ``sending rocketlike bursts of flame and a cloud of gray smoke into the air and creating a 10-mile traffic jam,'' according to The New York Times.
  • On Oct. 29, 2000, winds turned a house fire into a conflagration - destroying three dwellings, damaging six others and leaving 55 people homeless, The New York Times said. The general alarm fire started at about 2:05 p.m. in a two-and-a-half-story wood-frame row house at 559 Main Street, Battalion Chief Edward McLaughlin told The Times.



On Jan. 15, 1904, Paterson firefighter Harry Kelley of Engine Co. 7 was fatally injured when a pinewood ladder snapped at a general alarm fire at the Hinchcliffe Brewery.

Captain James O'Neill, who was also on the ladder, suffered injuries.

Box 18 at Straight and Governor streets was transmitted just after 7 a.m. after flames broke out near an elevator of the the fifth floor of the building.

The initial alarm brought horse-drawn Engines 3, 6 and 1 and Truck 3, with the horses struggling to over ice-covered streets to reach the blaze.  

The general alarm was a sounded after a roof-top tower holding thousand of  barrels of grain collapsed.

Engine 7, which was usually held in reserve in the south of the city, was added to the call, bring all of the city's fire apparatus to the blaze.

Kelley and O'Neill were manning a ladder pipe aimed at the fourth floor when they met their fate, falling 60 to 70 feet.

For full details, visit

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

KENVIL - 1940

On Sept. 12, 1940, in the buildup to World War Two, an explosion ripped through the Hercules Company munitions plant in Kenvil, Morris County, killing 51 workers and injuring 200 others.

The cause remains a mystery. Sabotage was suspected.

Kenvil, N. J., Sept. 13 (United Press) -- The death toll in the Hercules Powder Company disaster rose steadily today as eight separate agencies sought evidence of sabotage in connection with the explosion and fire which one rescue official said may have taken nearly 100 lives.

By noon 35 bodies, five of them unidentified, had been extricated from the still-smoldering ruins of what had been, up to 1:30 P. M. yesterday, one of the most productive munitions plants in the country.

Sheriff Henry Sperling of Morris County emerged from the plant grounds after a visit of inspection, gestured at the scene of devastation and remarked: "There must be 60 more in there."

W. C. Hunt, operations director of the company, was more conservative, however. He said "probably four or five" more bodies still were buried in the wreckage. The damage was estimated at $1,000,000.

The Army and Navy Intelligence Services, the Hercules Company, state police, the Dies committee, local police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New Jersey Legislature were conducting or preparing to start investigations.

More than 200 men were searching for bodies, aided by a steam shovel. In two nearby hospitals 83 persons, some near death, still were receiving treatment.

The whole smokeless powder section of the plant, where work was being speeded on a $2,000,000 Government defense order, was leveled to the ground. A dynamite-making unit escaped damage, however, and the morning shift of workers filed back to the grounds. Casualties had decimated the plant's force of 1,200 employes, but the survivors were all put to work, making dynamite, clearing debris and hunting for bodies.

The scene was swarming with investigators representing the Army and Navy Intelligence services, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Dies committee investigating un-American activities, the New Jersey Legislature and police. Some of the secret agents had come by taxicab from as far as Virginia.

A search of the ruins was delayed by smoldering fires, which had burned fitfully all night, accompanied by puffs of alcohol vapors. Over more than half a square mile hot stones and bricks and molten steel lay in heaps.

Awaiting an opportunity to get onto the grounds, investigators questioned surviving workers, some of whom said that several employees of the Hercules and the Picatinny Army arsenal at Dover, nearby, had been discharged recently as the aftermath of a joint Ku Klux Klan "German" American bund meeting at the bund's Camp Nordland, 10 miles from here.

The workers said that FBI men had watched the meeting and had noticed several cars bearing the small identification plates issued to munitions plant workers, entering the Bund camp. A check-up of those identification plates led to the dismissals, according to the workers.

List of the dead:

EDWARD E. ALLEN, 20, Budd Lake.
JOHN T. ANDICO, 27, Netcong.
HARRY BACK, 29, Patchogue, Long Island.
HAROLD BAKER, 28, Dover.
W. G. BLACK, 32, Flanders.
STUART T. CARROLL, 26, Morristown.
RAYMOND L. CORBY, 50, Rockway.
WILEY DEJONG, 35, Mendham.
REUBEN FANCHER, 22, Succasunna.
RALPH A. GRANATO, 22, Port Morris.
ELIJAH A. GREER, 20, Andrews, North Carolina.
JOHN B. GRIFFITH, 20, Budd Lake.
RAYMOND GULICK, 32, Wharton.
WILLIAM LEMAR HALKYARD, 40, Catawissa, Pennsylvania.
PETER KNOTT, 27, Kenvil.
JAMES G. LIST, 34, Kenvil.
CHARLES L. MOSSER, 45, Pequannock.
WAYNE L. NIELSEN, 26, Ferndale, Michigan.
ROBERT NOLAN, 64, Kenvil.
H. E. OPDYKE, 48, Netcong.
RUBEN PARKER, 51, Dover.
EDWARD H. PAYNE, 20, Randolph.
NICHOLAS D. PISANO, 23, Netcong.
JOHN SAVKO, 20, Mt. Hope.
WALTER SISCO, 31, Branchville.
JACK W. SMITH, 18, Shonghum.
RUSSELL SOSSONG, 28, Ledgewood.
PAUL STALCUP, 33, Mr. Arlington.
ALVIN STOUT, West Belmar.
CHARLES TICE, 47, Mine Hill.
G. E. TOBLER, 27, Bartley.
WARREN WALDRON, Mt. Arlington.
RAYMOND A. WOODS, 18, Kenvil.

Friday, January 13, 2017

NEWARK - 1910


On Nov. 26, 1910, a deadly fire engulfed a factory at Orange and High streets in Newark, illustrating the hazards of lax building codes and inadequate safety standards.

Six girls burned to death and 19 others plunged to their deaths from the windows of the Wolf Muslin Undergarment Company on the fourth floor, the fire having started on the floor below.

The quarters of Engine Company 4 were located across the street, however, the firemen were pushed back by the speed and intensity of the flames as the aged factory's floors were saturated with oil.

"From every window all over the building a stream of women began to fall through the air," The New York Times reported. "A few let themselves down from the window sills and hung for a second or two before they let go.  Others sprang out hand in hand with companions."

Newark's disaster was a prelude to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City the following March that claimed the lives of 146 garment workers - and led to industrial reforms.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


On July 2, 1910, Box
456 was transmitted for the Levy Silk Mill and Manhattan Ribbon at Bridge and River streets in Paterson. No serious injuries were reported. About 100 workers lost their jobs. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Photos:,, Rutgers University

The Hoboken piers fire of June 30, 1900 claimed at least 326 lives, destroyed three Trans-Atantic liners and 24 smaller craft and gutted warehouses and other shore-side structures.

The Saale, Bremen and Main of the North German Lloyd line were lost; the Kaiser Wilhelm de Gross was heavily damaged.

The fire started in bales of cotton on the wharf and spread to barrels of turpentine 
and oil, gaining in ferocity.

Flames overwhelmed the resources of the Hoboken Fire Department, which received  the initial alarm at about 4 p.m.

On the New York side of the river, Box 251 for West and Morton streets rang in at 4:09 p.m, according to an account on the website of FDNY Marine Company 1.

Fire boats assigned to the box saw 
"hell was pop­ping" across the river and steamed toward New Jersey.

"In less than fifteen minutes the flames covered an area of a quarter of a mile long, extending outward from the actual short line to the bulk-heads, from six hundred to one thousand feet away," according to an account published in newspapers across the country.

Many of the casualties were trapped on the ships.

Those below deck struggled "in vain to force their way through the small portholes, while the flames pressed relentlessly upon them,” The New York Times reported.

The Graphic newspaper reported: "Decks were strewn with the bodies of those who succumbed to the fierce heat, which speedily made iron an steel red hot."

The piers themselves "entirely disappeared, and in their place was a clearing of blackened tops of piles and a gnarled mass of iron beams, the framework of the tops of the sheds," the Brooklyn Eagle said.

The Hoboken Fire Department lost a hose wagon to the flames.

For full details, visit 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Photo and diagram
: Wikipedia

On July 9, 1937, fire engulfed the 20th Century Fox film storage facility in Little Ferry, New Jersey, resulting in the loss of most of the silent films produced by Fox Film Corporation before 1932.

On person died and two others were injured.

Investigators determined the fire was caused by the spontaneous combustion of nitrate film stored in inadequately ventilated vaults.

Firefighters from Little Ferry, Hawthorne, Ridgefield Park, River Edge and South Hackensack  manned 14 hose steams, bringing the blaze under control in three hours, according to Wikipedia.

Four homes and a garage also sustained damage.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


On Nov. 29, 1899, Paterson firefighters wielding axes freed passengers from wreck of the Buffalo Express at the Van Winkle Street rail crossing.

A local train bound for Hoboken sped through a signal and crashed into the express as it waited near the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad station - killing six people and injuring 21 others, The New York Times reported.

The local train shattered the rear day coach of the express and sent it telescoping into the next car.

A fire ensued.

"Within a few moments, police reserves , firemen and crowds of people  came to the rescue of those in the terrible tangle of wood and iron" and ripped "the fearful pile to pieces," according to a dispatch in the Sacramento Daily Union.

The fire was also extinguished.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Photos: Twitter, News 12 NJ, NBC

NJ Transit train No. 1614 jumped the platform at Hoboken station on Sept. 29, 2016.  A woman
was killed by falling debris. More than 100 others were injured. Jersey City, Paterson and Hackensack provided mutual aid to the Hoboken Fire Department.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

SKIP GANGEL 1958-2016

In memory of Walter "Skip" Gangel, who was born in Paterson, served with the Franklin Lakes Ambulance Corps and kindled the editor's interest in the fire and rescue service many years ago.

Born: May 31, 1958

: April 28, 2016

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


UPDATED JAN. 16, 2018


: Collection of Bruno Wendt, Paterson Fire History
Top photo: Paterson Engine Co. 1's crew pumps foam. Deputy Chief William Comer, later Chief of Department, om foreground. Center:  Truck Co. 2 with aerial up, Squad Co. 1. Bottom: Early stage of fire.

On Feb. 8, 1980, a general alarm fire gutted Paterson police headquarters at 111 Washington St.

Box 171 was transmitted at 4:25 p.m. and crews resorted to pumping foam into the basement to smother the flames as the building housed ammunition and tear gas.

The next day's New York Times told the story concisely:

PATERSON, N.J., Feb. 9 - The Paterson Police Department, burned out of its ornate, turn-of-the-century headquarters in a four-hour, general-alarm fire last night, began salvaging smoke-damaged equipment today and setting up makeshift headquarters in a vacant junior high school about a half-mile away.

Temporary quarters were established at the old Central High School building, pending construction of a public safety building.

111 Washington Street was abandoned and remained vacant into the 21st Century.

In a macabre twist, in September 2016, a body was discovered locked in a cell in the building, with officials estimating the person had been dead about a decade.





: Collection of Bruno Wendt, Paterson Museum

Sylvette's Store, located at Main Street and Broadway in Paterson, was the scene of a general alarm fire and collapse on March 11, 1972.

Box 451, the same alarm signal transmitted for the Great Fire of 1902, rang in at 3 p.m.

A pumper was damaged by a falling wall.

Sylvette's, which sold ladies coats and dresses, was owned and operated by Al and Julius Gladstone

The store was located next to the old Rivoli Theater, which opened in 1923, and was converted into shops.

Friday, September 16, 2016


UPDATED JAN. 17, 2018

Photos:,and Collection of Bruno Wendt

It was hell on earth.

On April 29, 1978, the Fulton Street fire - a general alarm at Box 151 - devoured old mills, adjacent homes and buildings in Paterson.

Acting Fire Chief Daniel Carroll said: "I never saw a fire spread so quickly."

Three Paterson Fire Department vehicles - Engine 2, Engine 5 and Battalion 2 - were left in ruins.

The initial alarm was received at 5:31 p.m. for a four-story mill at 28 Fulton St., near the Passaic River.

Hundreds of firefighters from across North Jersey provided mutual aid.

Investigators said the fire was arson.

Initial reports suggested a grain explosion.

* * *

The New York Times - May 2, 1978

PATERSON, May 1 ‐ Officials here said today that the multimillion‐dollar fire that destroyed four industrial buildings and five residential structures in the Riverside section of the city late Saturday and early Sunday had been deliberately set.

“We have reason to believe that it was not the work of vandals,” said Mayor. Lawrence F. Kramer as he met with some of the owners of companies that had been destroyed or damaged by the blaze, which was still smoldering.

Crane operators were at the scene trying to knock down parts of walls of the four‐story mill structures that were still standing.

“It was definitely a set fire,” Acting Fire Chief Daniel Carroll said. “We have not come up with conclusive proof as yet, but in all my 36 years of experience as a firefighter I never saw a fire spread so quickly. There is no doubt in my mind that the fire was accelerated by something other than natural causes.”

He said that a four‐story mill building at 28 Fulton Street where the fire started had been virtually vacant but that “it was fully involved within five minutes. There was no reason for the fire to spread so quickly."

He said that investigators from the County Prosecutor's office and from the 
police would help the department's arson squad try to determine the exact cause of the blaze, which left seven families homeless and idled about 70 workers.

The Mayor had high praise for the Paterson Fire Department and for the 200 firemen from neighboring communities who had fought the blaze for more than 10 hours.

“It was touch and go there for a while,” the Mayor said. “We had potential bombs at both ends.”


Photo: Linden Fire Dept
Fire at Cities Service in Linden in 1938

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Photos: Hoboken Historical Museum
121 Clinton St., Hoboken

More than 40 people died in suspicious tenement fires in Hoboken between between March 1978 and November 1981, the deadliest taking 21 lives at 121 Clinton St. on Jan. 21, 1979.

The city was also the scene of a suspicious hotel fire that claimed 12 lives on April 30, 1982.

Hudson County prosecutor Harold Ruvoldt said fires were set for profit and revenge.

Most, if not all, were never solved.

In a letter published in the Dec. 13, 1981 edition of The New York Times, a Hoboken resident named Diane M. Camilleri, wrote:

Until several years ago, Hoboken was a stable, ethnically diverse working-class city. The original influx of more-affluent people from outside Hoboken led to the renovation of many small buildings in certain areas of the city, usually for the purchaser's own residence.

More recently, however, large real-estate interests and developers seem to have taken over gentrification; wholesale renovations and condominium conversions are occurring. Apparently not satisfied with the pace of evicting the poor, there has been a recent major increase in tenant harassment and arson.

Hoboken's arson rate over the last few years has been staggering for a small city. In the last month and a half alone, there have been 13 deaths in two arson fires. One building, in which 11 people, mostly Hispanic, died as a result of arson, is next to a group of buildings soon to be offered for sale as condominiums. This burnedout building was bought by the same developer who owns the adjacent condominiums.

The arson on Nov. 21 killed two people and displaced more than 60 others, who were then moved out of Hoboken. Among those 60 were some victims of the previous recent arsons who were being ''temporarily'' housed there. That building was bought in October by a real-estate developer.
The coincidence between these buildings being targeted for renovation or condominium conversion and the arsons is suspicious. Arson appears to be a convenient way to acquire a building with no tenants to force out by less-drastic, and therefore slower, methods.
Arson is only the most tragic and dramatic method of displacement. Tenant harassment has been occurring for some time: Phony eviction notices, applications for enormous hardship and capital-improvement rent increases, illegal raising of rents, delaying needed repairs, etc.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016



Photos: City of Jersey City and
Erie Railroad warehouse fire along Pavonia Avenue in Horseshoe section of Jersey City in 1941.  (Time exposure of three men visible in Photo No. 3.)


Water tower on the job at Pier B in Jersey City, according to sign on side of building. The city's fire apparatus was painted white during the 1930s and 1940s.


Photo:, Paterson Retired Firefighters Facebook

It was a case of cold-blooded murder by fire.

On Dec. 10, 1968, an arson blaze swept the Midtown Hotel in downtown Paterson, killing six people.

Deputy Fire Chief Solomon Reines said there had been a "neighborhood vendetta" against occupants of the hotel, scene of an earlier fire.

Box 141 was transmitted at 10:58 p.m. and went to a general alarm in freezing cold.

About 20 people lived in the hotel, many of them elderly transients, according to an Associated Press dispatch.

Rooms were located on the second story of a row of shops at 2 Park Ave.

Police Sergeant Stanley Nessen said he convinced about 10 people not to jump from the ledge and they were rescued by firefighters.

Police arrested a suspect Dec. 13 and filed six counts of homicide as well as arson.

They sought four other suspects in the case.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Photos: Hawthorne Fire Dept, 

On Feb. 17, 1967, firefighters from across North Jersey responded to Hawthorne for a series of explosions that killed 11 workers at a chemical plant.

Hawthorne Mayor Louis Bay II said victims faced "certain cremation" at the plant owned by the Morningstar Paisley Division of the International Latex Corp.

Sixteen others were injured, some seriously.

The force of the blasts flipped a railroad box car on a track adjacent to the shattered the three-story plant.

Harry Shortway, an off-duty police officer from Ridgewood, raced inside to render aid with explosions "still popping and bricks flying,'' United Press International reported.

The plant processed corn starch.

Investigators suspected a buildup of dust triggered the blasts.

Photo: Find A Grave
Common grave of three victims at Fair Lawn Memorial Cemetery

Hawthorne, N.J. (UPI) -- Rescue workers bulldozed through tons of twisted girders and shattered brickwork today searching for victims of a series of fiery explosions that ripped apart a chemical complex, presumably killing 11 persons trapped beneath the tangled wreckage.

Working in the glare of floodlights, disaster crews early this morning recovered the body of one man from the debris of the Morningstar Paisley Division of the International Latex Corp. The victim was not identified pending the arrival of a coroner.

Wives and children of some of the missing men waited in driving snow through the night and early morning while rescuers dug through the ruins of the plant, blasted apart Friday near the noon hour.

Half of the 16 persons injured in the tragedy were hospitalized today, several in serious condition.

Standing in sub-freezing cold through most of the night while 150 rescuers picked through the smouldering ruins, Mayor LOUIS BAY II said the victims faced "certain cremation" when the explosions ripped through the plant.

"I'm sure we will not find them alive," he added grimly.

The enormity of the ruins made recovery operations difficult.

The plant manufactured preservatives for foodstuffs and adhesive materials.

The first explosion thundered through a three-story building in the block-long, L-shaped complex. Other blasts followed and the raging flames swept the rest of the plant, which included an attached one-story structure and a separate one-story building.

What touched off the explosions was a mystery.

"We are completely puzzled by this," said MAX FELLER, executive in the firm's New York City office. "The most explosive things we manufacture are food preservatives made from ground starch. How inflammable is starch?"

Another report said the explosions might have started in an oven used to roast corn starch and make dextrine from it. It said accumulated dust in the area could have caused a spontaneous explosion.

HARRY SHORTWAY, an off-duty policeman from Ridgewood, N.J., raced into the three-story building while explosions were still popping and bricks flying. As he went in, a man ran out afire, screaming. Firemen directed hoselines on him to put out the flames.
Lebanon Daily News, Penn., Feb 18, 1967 via