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.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Can't a guy get a good nap around here?

Your editor was born Feb. 13, 1958 at the Paterson General Hospital and spent the first 6 1/2 years of his life residing at his grandmother's home at 179 Lee Avenue, Haledon.

Within the my first 24 hours of crossing the threshold of that old house, the fire service was emblazoned upon my being:

Everyday at a noon the municipal fire horns would blare the signal 3-3-3.

Test. Test. Test.

Tell me that wouldn't startle a brand-spanking new Patersonian and soil a few diapers!

So much for my noon nap.

Almost 55 years later I suspect that may have been the start of my awareness and interest in fire engines, firefighters and fire alarm systems.

Over the years, I have accumulated a variety of fire service memorabilia -- including a list of Haledon's fire alarm signals.

The signals are reprinted herewith:

1 - Wire Trouble
2 - Fire Out
3 - Test
4 - Company 1 respond to firehouse
5 - Company 2 respond to firehouse
6 - General Alarm
7 - Fireman's Funeral Call
8 - Mutual Aid Cal
2-2-2 NO SCHOOL [Editor's note: My favorite!]
12 - Avenue B and Jasper Street
13 - Barbour Street and Lee Avenue [Editor's note: My Grandma Strobino's house!!]
14 - Belmont Avenue and Cook Street
15 - Belmont Avenue and Henry Street
16 - Lee Avenue and Legion Place
17 - Fire Co. No. 2
18 - Cliff and Oxford streets
21 - Clinton Street by the brook
23 - Belmont Avenue and Zabriske Street
24 - Barbour Street and Van Dyke Avenue
25 - Van Dyke Avenue and King Street
26 - Hobart Avenue and Tilt Street
27 - Norwood Street and Southside Avenue
28 - Central Avenue below Tilt Street
31 - Church Street, North of Brook
32 - Haledon Avenue and N. 16th Street
34 - Bernard and N. 12th Street
35 - Haledon Avenue and Kossuth Street
36 - Belmont Avenue and Kossuth Street
37 - North 15th and Post streets
38 - Cona Court
42 - Belmont and Buschmann avenues
43 - Former Columbia Silk Mills
45 - John Ryle Avenue and Willie Street
46 - Belmont Avenue and Beam Street
51 - Belmont Avenue and Church Street (Fire Co. No. 1)
52 - Kossuth Street School
53 - Allied Chemical Co. (Harmon Division)
61 - Pompton Road and West Haldeon Avenue
62 - Central and Stansfield avenues
63 - Sam Braen's Sons Quarry
64 - Central Avenue and Valley Road
65 - Valley View Sanatorium
67 - Pompton Road near Ailsa Avenue
112 - Preakness Avenue and Elm Street
113 - Aberdeen Court
115 - Manchester Regional High School
234 - ADT Alarm


Photo: Paterson Retired Firefighters

Was "an angel" sending the alarm from Box 818?

On Oct. 18, 1984, a general alarm fire killed 15 people at the Alexander Hamilton Hotel  in Paterson and injured many others.

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," he 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.

Friday, October 12, 2012



Lieutenant James J. Delaney
April 15, 1911
Killed when the three-ton hose and chemical truck he was riding overturned on Passaic Street en route to a tenement fire. He died at St. Mary’s Hospital.

Deputy Chief John Doremus and firefighter Edmund Hutchinson
Dec. 20, 1955
Killed when the chief’s car they rode in collided with Truck Company 1 at Passaic and Main avenues. The accident prompted the department to upgrade its radio system and sirens.

Firefighter William Jackson
Feb. 17, 1960
Killed while fighting a blaze inside a building when a wall collapsed, pinning him against a fire truck.

Battalion Chief Joseph Griffin and firefighter Samuel Latona
March 12, 1970
Killed when a wall collapsed at 181 Third St. during one of the city’s most intense blazes. Several injured firefighters were pulled from the rubble.

Firefighter Alberto Tirado
May 9, 2001
Killed trying to rescue children he believed were trapped in an apartment building. He died of smoke inhalation.

Sources: Passaic Fire Department; Herald News archives.


U.S. Fire Administration

On July 1, 1988, a fire at the Ford Auto Dealership in Hackensack, New Jersey, took the lives of five firefighters when a bowstring truss roof collapsed.

Just a minute prior to the collapse the incident commander had instructed the firefighters working on the interior to “back your lines out.”

This message was not heard due to defective fireground communications equipment.

Debris from the subsequent roof collapse pinned three firefighters while two others escaped to an adjacent room.

These two firefighters radioed for assistance but neither the incident commander nor the fire alarm dispatcher picked up the calls for help.

By the time word was relayed to the incident commander from civilians picking up the calls for help on their scanners it was too late to effect a rescue.


Associated Press

HACKENSACK, N. J. - Five firemen killed when a burning roof collapsed onto them were like "family" in this city, which never had a firefighter die in the line of duty.

"There are only 100 of us in this department and this is just a small place," Fire Chief ANTHONY AIELLOS said Friday. "In a town like this these are your friends."

"It's a sad day in Hackensack," added Mayor FRED CERBO. "We've never had anything like this in our city before. To have five firemen die is just incredible."

The fire, which destroyed the building and contents of a car dealership, started shortly after 3 p.m. Friday in the rear service section of the building, AIELLOS said.

The ceiling collapsed as the firefighters, who were inside the building, were cutting a hole in it to get a hose on flames in a space between the ceiling and the roof, AIELLOS said.

"All of a sudden the entire 60-foot square inside ceiling fell on them," he said, adding that four other firefighters inside at the time escaped injury.

All of Hackensack's 100 firefighters as well as units from surrounding towns responded to the blaze, which was under control by 6:30 p.m.

Hundreds of bystanders watched along the busy intersection in this New York suburb of 40,000 people while the firefighters' bodies were placed in ambulances.

Many clutched friends when stretchers bearing the bodies came briefly into view.

The victims were Capt. RICHARD WILLIAMS, 54, Lt. RICHARD REINHOGEN, 48, and firefighters WILLIAM KREJSA, 52, LEONARD RADUMSKI, 38, and STEPHEN ENNIS, 30.

All five were from Hackensack.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Photos: Paterson Retired Firefighters Facebook page

On April 6, 1975, Paterson Fire Capt. Fred Armona was killed in the collapse of the Fourth Christian Reformed Church at Fourth Avenue and East 19th Street.

Box 638 was transmitted at 1:43 p.m. and escalated to a general alarm.

Armona, 56, and several other men were on a hose line when the walls of the wooden church fell outward, sending the roof plunging into the sanctuary.

The church was built in 1911 and the congregation relocated to a site in Wyckoff .

Fire departments from the neighboring communities of Haledon, Prospect Park and Hawthrone provided mutual aid.

Armona was assigned to Engine Company 11, which was located at 97 Grand Street.

On the same day, Paterson firefighters contended with a blaze at an abandoned dye house on River Street, according to a newspaper account.