UPDATEPhoto: Collection of Bruno Wendt
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.
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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.”