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

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