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

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Photo: Paterson Retired Firefighters
Was "an angel" sending the alarm?

On Oct. 18, 1984, a general alarm fire killed 15 people at the Alexander Hamilton Hotel at 55 Church Street, Paterson, N.J. and injured many others.

However, firefighters were also credited with saving many lives at great risk to themselves.

Box 181 was transmitted at 12:14 a.m.

Louis Ponstingel, who was working the midnight to 8 a.m. shift as a Paterson fire dispatcher, shared the following recollection on the 28th anniversary of the blaze:
"The usual procedure is to look up the box number and address of the incident, the cross streets and the companies to respond," Ponstingel said.

"I for some reason pulled the whole card file and proceeded immediately to send the box."
Ponstingel's father, also named Louis, was the captain in charge of Engine 10 that night and "he and his men were credited with saving many lives," Ponstingel said.
"If anything there was an angel sending the box out expeditiously and, who knows, may have helped save someone," Ponstingel said by e-mail on Oct. 18, 2012.

When it opened in the 1920s, the Alexander Hamilton was the pride of Paterson - a fashionable hotel with affluent patrons and big-money investors.

The riots of the 1960s contributed to the decline of the city, including the hotel.