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.
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
LABOR DAY 1985
Fire leveled 18 factories and 23 homes in the City of Passaic and led to the death of a mutual aid firefighter.
Investigators blamed two boys who were playing with matches at the Gera Mills Industrial Park.
Photos: City of Passaic
Monday, July 12, 2021
An arson fire leveled the Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Franklin Lakes on Dec. 12, 2019.
James Mayers, 27, was found not guilty by reason of insanity, committed to Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital and ordered to remain under court supervision until December 2049, according to NorthJersey.com.
At a 2020 court hearing, psychiatrist Steven Simring characterized Mayers as "religiously preoccupied" and hoping to reach "religious purity" by setting a blaze.
Thursday, November 7, 2019
Wednesday, November 6, 2019
The 1,200 square-foot display featured 500 characters from nursery rhymes and story books, according to The Morning Call newspaper.
It was built to raise funds for the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund in memory of Ench's mother, who died of cancer.
Hundreds of people had visited the display, called the "Land of Let's Believe," over the holidays.
The blaze was apparently sparked by a marshmallow that fell onto the display erected in the basement of the home.
Ench suffered burns trying to extinguish the flames with a pitcher of water.
Firefighter Reginald Ripley pulled her from the first floor "and almost dropped from the intense heat and smoke," the newspaper said.
Twenty-five men, women and children escaped up a stairway with six suffering injuries.
Box 347 was transmitted for 95 Totowa Ave. at 6:42 p.m.
On Jan. 6, 1914, a general alarm fire gutted the Paterson Opera House, spread to the adjacent Donahue Building and triggered a backdraft.
Firefighters "jumped in and fought like tigers," Paterson Fire Chief Thomas Coyle said.
Sunday, November 3, 2019
|Photo: Collection of Bruno Wendt|
Friday, November 1, 2019
On June 15, 1921, a Perth Amboy fire engine racing to an alarm collided with a train at the Market Street crossing of the Central Railway of New Jersey, killing nine volunteer firefighters. It's believed to be the largest loss of fire service personnel in 20th Century New Jersey.
Thursday, October 31, 2019
"Families in an adjacent building were forced to flee when flames jumped across a small alley," The New York Times reported.
Box 11 was transmitted shortly before 3 a.m. and firefighters, back in quarters from an earlier third-alarm blaze, responded to a chaotic scene.
Gasoline was poured throughout the tenement, blocking exits.
Fire Engineering magazine said:
"The guy was fantastic," Fire Chief Harold Kane said.
McGuire raced up and down a ladder, removing a 10-year-old boy, a woman and a man from a third-floor window. He then "groped in the dark" and found an unconscious 9-year-old boy in a rear bedroom, UPI reported.
Firefighters recovered the bodies of Edwin Perez, 34, his wife Irene, 38, and their children, Alejandro, 5, Carmen, 10, and Edwin Ramon, 11. Luis Alberto Perez, 23, a relative, was also found dead.
The other fatalities were identified as Gloria Hendley, 26, and Ramon Diaz, 56.
Twenty-four people were injured, including three firefighters.
Leonides Garcia, 37, was convicted of setting the blaze, Fire Engineering reported. Police said Garcia had been "making passes" at a tenant for several months and she wanted none of it, according to UPI.
On Nov. 24, 1935, fire struck the Christian Sanitorium in Wyckoff. Two patients died in the blaze that destroyed one of the sanitorium's five buildings. Paterson, Hawthorne, Midland Park and Franklin Lakes provided mutual aid. Nurses saved many patients. The victims were identified as Barbara Sinke, 47, of Prospect Park, and Mary Duke, 77, of Bayonne, according to an Associated Press story in the St. Petersburg Times in Florida.
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
|Apartment building and TV tower|
On Nov. 8, 1956, a twin-engine aircraft flying in rain and fog clipped a giant television tower in North Bergen and crashed into an apartment building, spewing flaming fuel and scattering parts over several city blocks.
Four people died and 15 others - including a dozen firefighters - were injured, according to the Associated Press.
The pilot and passenger of the plane flying from Indianapolis to New York City were among the fatalities as was a woman who "jumped five stories to the street in panic as the building burst into flames," AP said.
"The impact of the crash shattered a part of the southwest wall of the multiple dwelling and the main portion of the plane was imbedded in the top floor," the magazine Fire Engineering reported. "Ruptured fuel tanks sprayed gasoline over the entire south wall starting a fire that involved that face of the building.
"In addition fire involved the entire top floor and the cockloft," the magazine said.
An aircraft engine hit a garage at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel School, where more than 200 children were in attendance, AP reported. Witness Dorothy Mounet said landing gear "bounced like a basketball behind a moving car."
Fearing the steel latticed 810-foot television tower would collapse, officials evacuated hundreds of homes. Workers secured the tower, which residents - rightfully - considered a hazard. It was eventually removed.
Engine 1, Engine 4, Truck 1 and the emergency squad responded on the first alarm at Box 415 at 77th and Broadway. Upon arrival, Acting Deputy Chief Theodore Fletcher ordered a general alarm, including mutual aid from neighboring cities to fight the fire and fill in North Bergen's fire stations.
Friday, October 25, 2019
On Thanksgiving Day 1936, fire destroyed a North Jersey landmark - Ben Marden's Riviera in Fort Lee, the popular night club atop the Palisades.
Flames "spread so quickly that Fort Lee's four fire companies, reinforced by two from Englewood Cliffs, could do little" to save the wooden structure, the Associated Press reported.
Ammonia fumes from the refrigerating plant injured Fort Lee volunteer firefighter John Tierney.
The club was open earlier in the day - Nov. 26 - for its annual distribution of 500 Thanksgiving baskets to needy families.
Thursday, October 24, 2019
|Photo: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey|
|Battalion Chief Gunther E. Beake|
The blaze started about 3,000 feet from the New Jersey portal.
"The fire was very difficult to extinguish due to thick smoke, heavy fumes and close quarters, requiring the assistance of both the New York and Jersey City fire departments," according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The tunnel's ventilation system helped save the day.
"Firemen entered the eastbound tube from the New Jersey entrance and worked their way through two lanes of parked vehicles formed by more than 100 automobiles, buses and trucks," the port authority said.
The Holland Tunnel disaster injured more than 60 people and led to the death three months later of a New York City firefighter, Battalion Chief Gunther E. Beake, who was overcome by smoke and chemical fumes.
Photo: Passionist Historical Archives Collection, McHugh Special Collections, The University of Scranton, Scranton, PA
Fire raged at St. Michael’s Monastery Church in Union City on May 31, 1934, leaving charred ruins.
A dozen people were hurt. A worker's torch apparently sparked the blaze.
"The entire interior of the 65-year-old structure was destroyed," The New York Times said. "The great copper dome crashed into the nave from a height of 200 feet.
"When the flames were brought under control, only the walls of the church and the stone part of the two façade towers were standing," the Times said.
Thursday, September 19, 2019
Monday, September 16, 2019
|BLEVE at Constable Hook - July 1900|
In 1872, John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil set up shop at the city's Constable Hook and expanded over the decades, adding to catastrophic risk.
After a 1911 blast, Fire and Water magazine, predecessor to Fire Engineering, noted "explosions at Constable Point are of frequent occurance, although every known precaution is taken to prevent such a disaster."
In other words, industrial progress comes at a cost.
In one of the deadliest accidents, two tankers collided and burst into flames under the Bayonne Bridge along the Kill Van Kull waterway on June 16, 1966, ultimately claiming 33 lives from the ships as well as two tugs.
One of the vessels, the Alva Cape carrying 4.2 million gallons of the volatile petroleum product, suffered a breach. The New York City fire boat Alfred E. Smith moved in close and smothered gushing "lava-like naptha" with foam, averting a greater disaster, New York Mayor John Lindsey said.
Here's a sampling of other incidents:
On July 5, 1900, lightning struck the Standard Oil tanks at Constable Hook with flames roaring to "a height of 100 feet in immense bubbles that burst with a noise like that of wind-drive surf,'' the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester, New York, reported. Today, firefighters refer to such fiery bubbles as a BLEVE - boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion. Workers dug trenches to contain spills threatening homes.
On Aug. 9, 1929, an explosion aboard the William Rockefeller moored at Standard Oil's Pier 6 took one life and spewed burning oil across Kill Van Kull toward Staten Island, according to the United Press. "Lines were placed aboard the William Rockefeller and it was towed into midstream, where fireboats poured water into it," UP reported.
On May 8, 1930, at Pier 1 of the Gulf Refining Co., a tanker backing into Kill Van Kull backfired after taking on 800 gallons of gasoline. Flames spread ashore, setting off a fiery chain reaction. "Drums of gasoline piled two high exploded and in some instances were hurled a hundred feet in the air," Fire Engineering said. Tugs and fire boats - including New York's John Purroy Mitchell, Zophar Mills and William J. Gaynor - joined land forces from the Bayonne Fire Department and plant brigades.
An estimated 316,000 pounds of foam powder was shipped to Bayonne to fight the 1930 inferno and replenish supplies.
In 1945, Fire Engineering reported fumes from a 100,000 oil tank at Standard Oil's Bayonne Terminal ignited, and the top of the tank caved in "scattering burning oil over a 100-foot area," injuring firefighters and plant workers. Bayonne firefighter James Farrell, 54, suffered third-degree burns to his neck and shoulders, the magazine said.
On Dec. 28, 1960, a liquid propane tank exploded at the Sun Gas Products Corp. at Constable Hook. Firefighters turned back flames that spread within 50 feet of a huge oil tank, according to the Associated Press. "Police evacuated everybody from within a five-block radius of the explosion scene and cordoned it off," AP reported.
Friday, September 6, 2019
"It's not easy being green," Kermit the Frog once said.
Newark and other American cities fielded safety lime and safety yellow fire apparatus to improve visibility and cut down on traffic accidents.
Scientists had determined human eyes are "most sensitive to greenish-yellow colors under dim conditions, making lime shades easiest to see in low lighting," according to the American Psychological Association.
However, later scientific studies determined "recognizing the vehicle was more important than paint color" the APA said. "If people in a particular community don't associate the color lime with fire trucks, then yellow-green vehicles may not actually be as conspicuous."
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
An estimated 500 were injured.
And yes, that was a "wooden trestle" in "Woodbridge."
"Volunteer firemen of New Jersey spearheaded the rescue effort," Fire Engineering magazine reported in its April 1, 1951 edition.
"As the magnitude of the tragedy became known, police broadcasts brought more and more rescue companies and emergency squads rolling in with needed lighting, cutting, forcible entry and other equipment, and personnel trained in emergency first aid work," the magazine said.
The Associated Press reported:
"The 11-car Pennsylvania Railroad train, The Broker, swerved wildly and jumped the tracks as it sped onto the midtown overpass. The cars, jack-knifing crazily, hurtled down a 20-foot embankment.
"The new, temporary overpass had been put into service only a few hours before the crash."
AP also reported:
"Ambulances hurried to the scene from all over North Jersey. Blood plasma was sent from New York and Jersey City.
"A morgue was set up in a garage. Blood-splattered rescue workers tenderly placed the dead in long rows, then pulled brown sheets of paper over their still forms. The feet of the dead sprawled limp, uncovered by the paper shrouds.
"Acetylene torches sputtered beneath the eerie rays of big spotlights, the torches biting first this way and then that around trapped passengers.
"Small ladders were laid against the slime of the embankment. And other big fire department ladders also were moved up to get at the coaches. The dead and injured, pulled free, were placed on the stretchers and handed down the ladders."
Tuesday, September 3, 2019
|Photo: Fire Engineering|
Eight people - including two other firefighters - were injured.
The blaze burned unchecked for five hours.
"Black, greasy smoke rose hundreds of feet into the air" and "was visible as far away as Manhattan, 25 miles to the north," the Associated Press reported.
"The first explosion let go at 2 p.m., and fire spread rapidly to adjoining stills and storage tanks," the AP said. "Then a 10,000 gallon asphalt tank blew 50 feet into the air, spewing its blazing contents."
Citing Second Assistant Fire Chief Alex Pietraska of Perth Amboy, the magazine Fire Engineering reported:
"When firemen arrived at the plant it looked as though a bomb had dropped on it. Hair and eyebrows were singed as the men hooked up lines and advanced through slime and melted tar to reach what appeared to be the center of the fire.
"Adams and Dumbach were on a foam nozzle, about five feet ahead of Howard Adam's brother, Harry. The Chief was about, five or ten feet behind Harry and both were lighting up the line for the men at the pipe.
"The first two men got in between two tanks which were described as steaming, spitting and whistling and they trained their stream on the center of the fire. Suddenly there was a whine like the noise associated with the dropping of a bomb.
"Chief Pietraska yelled to the men to get back, as it looked as if a tank was going to blow. As the chief and men began to run, there came a terrific blast, which caught the two nearest men. Howard Adams and Dumbach were thrown into a three-foot deep pit filled with molten asphalt and burned to death."
Dambach was the father of four and Adams had a 6-year-old son, the AP said.
|Photos: PM newspaper|
Monday, August 26, 2019
|Photo: Straight & Narrow website|
|Photo: Straight & Narrow website|
On Aug. 24, 2019, a five-alarm fire destroyed Paterson's largest halfway house.
The blaze at Straight and Narrow, 410 Straight St., displaced 200 people but there were no injuries despite the intensity of the flames.
The smoke plume was visible for miles.
A statement issued by Straight and Narrow said:
"A small isolated blaze quickly turned into a five-alarm fire, sending plumes of black smoke into the air.
"Thank you to our working Straight and Narrow employees, who, when the alarm sounded, acted diligently and professionally. Our service recipients evacuated quickly and calmly, and none of our employees or clients were hurt."
The statement also said:
"It is times like these that our community comes together and we have many people to thank. We would especially like to acknowledge:
"Paterson's brave firefighters, police officers and all first responders for their quick action which prevented an even worse disaster. Special thanks to Fire Chief Brian McDermott, Police Director Jerry Speziale, and Police Chief Troy Oswald.
"The additional fire departments who bravely assisted including Boonton, Parsipanny, Bloomfield, Pompton Lakes, Fairfield, Wanaque, Wyckoff and West Milford."
Six Alarms in June
Earlier in the summer, on June 25, a six-alarm fire destroyed a row of homes on Summer Street in Paterson, Channel 7 Eyewitness News reported. Firefighters suffered heat exhaustion. "It really is very stewy out here, and it's taken down our firefighters," Fire Chief Brian McDermott said.
Friday, August 23, 2019
Thursday, August 22, 2019
|Photos: Fire Engineering|
On Sept. 9, 1930, fire gutted the Lamond & Robertson Carpet Mill at 26 Branch Street in Paterson.
The city's entire fire force responded to the general alarm at Box 623, aided by crews from Prospect Park, Fairlawn, Wortendyke, Hawthorne, Haledon, West Paterson and Little Falls.
Several people were injured, among them Paterson firefighter Henry Donaldson of Engine Company 2, who suffered a cut to his left hand, according to newspaper reports.
Fire Engineering magazine reported:
"The blaze started in the jute storage room, and with the rapidity of an explosion, spread to other sections of the L-shaped brick building. The first alarm was turned in at 11:25 a.m. the second and third shortly afterwards, and the general alarm was sent at 11:40. As a safety measure, children in a public school three blocks distant were not permitted to leave for their luncheon recess.
The crew of the fire truck was scattered over the pavement in the collision, while the bus carried through a store window and came to a halt halfway inside the shop.
Police Chief HARRY L. JORDAN identified the dead firemen as battalion chief WILLIAM BLISS, 46, who died of his injuries at Holy Name hospital, Teaneck and PHILIP KERR, 50, whose head was crushed under one of the vehicles.
Wednesday, August 21, 2019
|Photos: Fire Engineering|
Four major fires struck the City of Passaic in the spring of 1951.
On April 19, a general alarm blaze gutted the roof and top floor of the five-story Tudor Court Apartment House, damaging or destroying almost 100 apartments and about a dozen businesses.
On May 4, a flash fire killed a mother and three children in a downtown tenement.
On June 4, a general alarm fire destroyed the Arrow Electric Company, two textile mills and three shops. Twenty-seven businesses suffered smoke or water.
Then, on June 11, a general alarm fire destroyed the downtown Silver Rod Cut Rate Drug Store, Vogue Millinery Shops and Rogers Clothing Company.
At the Arrow Electric conflagration, flames devoured "large stocks of phonograph records and a 1,200 gallon oil tank in the basement," according to the July 1, 1951 edition of Fire Engineering.
"After this, the fire spread through vertical openings to involve the first and then the second floor, where it fed on a quantity of cloth and barrels of dyes and chemicals."
"Heavy machinery on the second floor caused it to collapse, as did the roof of the building."
The building didn't have automatic sprinklers.
At the height of the fire, more than 20 lines were playing on the flames.
"One wall of the Arrow building bulged out about a foot, and cracked badly enough to cause men and equipment to be moved," Fire Engineering said.
"The wind, though gentle, changed direction frequently from east to west and added to the firemen’s woes, as dense smoke rolled through the streets for blocks."
Arrow Electric response:
- First Alarm @ 3:13 p.m. via street box: Engine 1, Engine 3, Truck 1, Emergency Squad
- Second Alarm @ 3:16 p.m.: Engine 6
Thursday, January 31, 2019
|Photo: Elmwood Park Fire Department|
|Photo: New Jersey 101.5|
|Track of smoke on weather radar|
On Jan. 30, 2019, flames leveled the Marcal Paper Company mill in Elmwood Park, New Jersey, toppling its landmark neon sign. Winds and bitter cold hindered firefighting operations and showered brands on neighboring blocks. Fire departments from across North Jersey provided mutual aid. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy described the blaze as "an extraordinary calamity," adding "thank God no injuries."
PRESS RELEASE - June 7, 2019
Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella announced the results of the investigation into the fire at the Marcal Paper Company, 1 Market Street, Elmwood Park, NJ, which occurred on Thursday January 31, 2019. The investigation was conducted by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office under the direction of Chief Robert Anzilotti, the Elmwood Park Police Department under the direction of Chief Michael Foligno, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, National Response Team.
PUBLIC NOTICE - Feb. 1, 2019
Dear Elmwood Park Residents:
Please be advised that since shortly after the fire began, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection in conjunction with the Bergen County Health Department were notified and sent representatives to the fire scene to conduct monitoring and testing for hazardous materials.
Air quality monitoring was and is currently being conducted around the site and in the surrounding residential neighborhood.
At no time have there been any readings above any level of concern regarding air quality.
We recommend that residents keep their windows closed as potential flare ups may cause smoke to migrate off-site towards the residential area.
Updates will be provided if needed or if the situation changes.
Chief of Police
COMPANY STATEMENT - Feb. 4, 2019
On behalf of Marcal, our associates and management, we wanted to express our deepest appreciation for the outpouring of support we have received from the community. This has lifted and encouraged our spirits throughout this tragic event more than you will ever know.
We also extend our most sincere thanks and admiration to all the hard-working firefighters and first responders—the men and women who have been working tirelessly at the site of our mill since Wednesday night—despite bitterly cold temperatures and life threatening conditions.
Given the ongoing response work, we have not yet been able to access the site to truly understand the full magnitude of destruction—or what our future path forward might be for our company.
While we remain hopeful, your continued support is dearly needed, now more than ever. If you would like to continue to show us your support, please use and ask for our Marcal Pro line of professional paper products in your restaurants, hotels, hospitals, schools and businesses. These products are still being produced by Marcal, in our remaining Northeast facility, and will be critical to the future survival and rebuilding of our iconic brand and company.
Meanwhile, we’re hard at work fostering employee needs and getting our teams back to work as quickly as possible. With that in mind, we’ve made arrangements with a local recruiting company that is offering assistance with placement.
Friday, February 9, 2018
On May 7, 1934, Paterson firefighters John O'Neill of Engine 9 and Allen Saal of Truck 3 were fatally injured at a fire at the St. Bonaventure Lyceum and parish hall.
"Collapsing walls of the two and a half story brick structure caused all of the injuries," the Paterson Evening News reported. "When they fell they swept firemen from their ladders burying them and their companies on the ground under debris."
Eight other men were hurt, with John Murphy, the chief's driver, and John Colligan, a police patrolman, suffering serious injuries.
"Three ambulances, taxicabs and private automobiles carried the injured firemen to hospitals," the Evening News said.
O'Neill died May 8 at St. Joseph's Hospital from a fractured skull and internal injuries. Saal died May 9 at the Paterson General Hospital of internal injuries.
The fire at Box 413 - at Carlisle Avenue and Ramsey Street - went to three alarms.
Thursday, February 8, 2018
|Jan. 22, 1938 blaze at Hotel Manhattan. |
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 patersonfirehistory.com.
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.