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.

Friday, January 19, 2018


Explosion at Napp Technologies in Lodi  April 21, 1995 
Mallinckrodt Chemical Works, Aug. 14, 1973 

Excerpt from The New York Times, April 22, 1995

LODI, N.J., April 21— An old chemical plant in the heart of downtown Lodi exploded and burned this morning, killing four workers, injuring eight others, forcing the evacuation of nearby homes and sending a dense plume of toxic black smoke over much of western Bergen County.
The blast at Napp Technologies, which had a history of environmental violations and workplace accidents, was described as an industrial accident, apparently tied to a malfunctioning mixing vat for chemicals. Residents were urged today to keep their windows closed, and their children and pets off the street in case smoke from the plant was dangerous.
Over the last 25 years, many said, there have been several explosions, some minor and some major, that have rocked the block-long row of factories that have housed several chemical companies. One accident in 1973 at the Mallinckrodt Chemical Company killed seven workers.
"How do they let these chemical companies stay right in the middle of town?" asked Linda Tedesco, who lives near Napp Technologies.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


On Oct. 21, 1963, an explosion leveled Franklin Finishing, a textile dye house at 178 Keen St.

On March 12, 1938, five Paterson firemen died at a general alarm fire at the Quackenbush Co. department store warehouse - greatest tragedy in the fire department's history.

On Sept. 3, 1953, fire crews contended with a three-alarm blaze at 80 Pennington Street

Assorted 20th Century incidents in Paterson, both major and minor:

  • On March 29, 1901, fire destroyed the offices of the Daily Guardian newspaper at Broadway and Washington Street. ``The Guardian did not miss publication,'' as the rival Morning Call lent its presses, according to The New York Times. Both papers are now defunct. Acting Assistant Fire Chief Sweeney and Fireman Peter Shane were injured at the blazes. Sweeney sprained his ankle in a fall and Shane was overcome by smoke and tumbled from a ladder, The Times said.
  • On June 21, 1901, fireworks exploded in a shop and tenement at 440 Main St., killing 17 people.
  • On Feb. 9, 1902, The Great Fire of Paterson swept the city's business district. The flames, which broke out at a trolley barn, were fed by the wind.
  • On April 1903, fire destroyed tenements at 919, 921, 923, and 925 Main Street, The New York Times said.
  • On July 11, 1909, ``All the fire engines of the city but one were at work fighting a fire on River Street, in the heart of the business district, this afternoon, when a false alarm drew the remaining engine across the river,'' The New York Times said. ``Immediately came an alarm for a fire in the southern section of the city.''
  • On March 18, 1911, fire destroyed the Folly Theatre ``soon after the matinee audience had dispersed,'' The New York Times said. ``Pat White and His Gaiety Burlesquers were playing a three-day engagement at the house, and all their costumes and other properties were burned.''
  • On Dec. 15, 1912, ``a fire started in some of the flimsy Christmas stuff which filled the J.S. Diskon Department Store, at the northwest corner of Main and Van Houten Streets,'' according to The New York Times said.
  • On Jan. 16, 1914, fire destroyed the Paterson Opera House. 
  • On Dec. 22. 1915, ``Eight persons, five of them women, were rescued from the fourth story in a $30,000 fire in a store and tenement house,'' The New York Times said. ``One woman, Mrs. Abram Smith, became hysterical and jumped to the third story roof of an adjoining building and suffered several minor bruises.''
  • On June 6, 1927, ``Thirty patients, all men, of St. Joseph's Hospital were carried tonight by seven policemen and twelve citizens from the west wing of the building while firemen called by two alarms extinguished a fire in the wall of the basement below,'' The New York Times said.
  • On June 23, 1930, eight workers suffered burns in a benzine explosion at the Paterson Fur Dressing Co. at 196 Madison St., according to The New York Times.
  • On Sept. 9, 1930 - Fire destroyed the Lamond Robertson Carpet Mill on East Fifth Street.
  • On Dec. 10, 1934, fire swept the St. Bonaventure Monastery on Ramsey Street. Firefighters used ladders to rescue three friars from the roof, The New York Times said. Box 413 was sounded at 1:37 p.m. and went to four alarms.
  • On Nov. 10, 1936 - Paterson police arrested a 26-year-old unemployed waiter after ``five fires in the early morning and nineteen others, one of which caused the death of a man, had terrorized part of this city since last May,'' The New York Times said.
  • On Dec. 23, 1937, heavy smoke poured from a basement fire and routed shoppers at the Silver Rod Drug Store, 133 Main St., The New York Times said.
  • On Feb. 17, 1949, ``Seventeen persons were felled today by chlorine gas in the Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Association building,'' The New York Times said. ``Police said a pipe connection came loose while workmen were removing the chlorination system, used to purify water in the swimming pool.''
  • On March 22, 1952, four children died in a fire at 27-29 Peach St. Fire Chief G. Hobart Strathearn said youngsters playing with matches apparently started the fire, The New York Times said.
  • On Feb. 18, 1960, a private plane crashed on the front lawn of a house, killing two persons ``as gale winds and a blinding downpour of rain and snow'' lashed the region, The New York Times said.
  • On March 11, 1962, a pregnant woman ``clung to a third-floor tenement window'' to escape a fire and ``plunged to the pavement seconds before a rescue ladder could reach her,'' The New York Times said. She survived the fall as did her fetus.
  • May 18, 1963, ``Three prisoners in a cell block in the Paterson police headquarters died of smoke poisoning in a fire early today,'' The New York Times said. ``Thirteen other persons, including two firemen, were overcome and required hospital treatment.''
  • On Oct. 21, 1963, explosions demolished Franklin Finishing Co., a textile dyeing factory, and damaged nearby homes. Box 656 for 178 Keen Street was transmitted at 12:33 p.m. and went to a general alarm.
  • Aug. 14, 1964, rioting erupted, and police and firefighters contended with rioters hurling fire bombs and debris. Paterson Mayor Frank Graves warned that he would "meet force with force."
  • On May 14-15, 1965, a general alarm fire burned out of control in a neighborhood of homes and factories. Box 268, at 256 Marshall Street, was sounded at 10:33 p.m.
  • On Oct. 22, 1966, fire destroyed seven stores in downtown Paterson and damaged several others at 190-194 Market St. and 1-11 Clark St. Box 145 was transmitted at 2:45 a.m. and went to four alarms.
  • On Oct. 27, 1966, construction worker Robert Penn, 44, rescued six people from a burning building, leaped from a third floor window - and caught his wife after she jumped, according to United Press International.
  • In June and July 1968, rioting broke out.
  • On Dec., 10, 1968, an arson fire killed six people at the Midtown Hotel on Park Avenue.
  • In, October 1971, the city was the scene of another outbreak of rioting.
  • On Aug. 2, 1977, a stainless-steel vat exploded at a dye house, killing three workers and injuring about a dozen more.
  • On April 29, 1978, the Fulton Street Fire - a general alarm at Box 151 - devoured mills and adjacent buildings as well as three fire department vehicles - Engine 2, Engine 5 and Battalion 2. Hundreds of firefighters from across North Jersey provided mutual aid.
  • On July 4, 1978, fire swept five downtown apartment buildings, injuring three residents and three firefighters and leaving 40 families homeless, The New York Times said.
  • On Feb. 8, 1980, fire destroyed police headquarters.
  • In February 1980, the city was plagued by the ``arson alley'' fatal fires.
  • On Oct. 15, 1981 an arson fire killed eight people at an apartment building at 89 Park Ave.
  • On Oct. 18, 1984, a general fire at the Alexander Hamilton Hotel and killed 15 people. The fire was set by a resident.
  • On Oct. 8, 1985, a three-alarm fire broke out at the Kirker Chemical Co. in the city's Riverside district and forced the evacuation of 200 residents.
  • On Jan. 17, 1991, a general alarm fire broke out at 161 Main Street - the building that once housed the Meyer Brothers department store - and spread to about a dozen other businesses. The conflagration claimed the life of a Paterson firefighter. The body of John A. Nicosia, 28, a member of Engine 4, was recovered two days later. (For a complete list of Paterson firefighters lost in the line of duty, see the article entitled "Last Alarm.")
  • On Oct. 20, 1997, a tractor-trailer loaded with chemicals caught fire on I-80 in Paterson ``sending rocketlike bursts of flame and a cloud of gray smoke into the air and creating a 10-mile traffic jam,'' according to The New York Times.
  • On Oct. 29, 2000, winds turned a house fire into a conflagration - destroying three dwellings, damaging six others and leaving 55 people homeless, The New York Times said. The general alarm fire started at about 2:05 p.m. in a two-and-a-half-story wood-frame row house at 559 Main Street, Battalion Chief Edward McLaughlin told The Times.



On Jan. 15, 1904, Paterson firefighter Harry Kelley of Engine Co. 7 was fatally injured when a pinewood ladder snapped at a general alarm fire at the Hinchcliffe Brewery.

Captain James O'Neill, who was also on the ladder, suffered injuries.

Box 18 at Straight and Governor streets was transmitted just after 7 a.m. after flames broke out near an elevator of the the fifth floor of the building.

The initial alarm brought horse-drawn Engines 3, 6 and 1 and Truck 3, with the horses struggling to over ice-covered streets to reach the blaze.  

The general alarm was a sounded after a roof-top tower holding thousand of  barrels of grain collapsed.

Engine 7, which was usually held in reserve in the south of the city, was added to the call, bring all of the city's fire apparatus to the blaze.

Kelley and O'Neill were manning a ladder pipe aimed at the fourth floor when they met their fate, falling 60 to 70 feet.

For full details, visit

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

KENVIL - 1940

On Sept. 12, 1940, in the buildup to World War Two, an explosion ripped through the Hercules Company munitions plant in Kenvil, Morris County, killing 51 workers and injuring 200 others.

The cause remains a mystery. Sabotage was suspected.

Kenvil, N. J., Sept. 13 (United Press) -- The death toll in the Hercules Powder Company disaster rose steadily today as eight separate agencies sought evidence of sabotage in connection with the explosion and fire which one rescue official said may have taken nearly 100 lives.

By noon 35 bodies, five of them unidentified, had been extricated from the still-smoldering ruins of what had been, up to 1:30 P. M. yesterday, one of the most productive munitions plants in the country.

Sheriff Henry Sperling of Morris County emerged from the plant grounds after a visit of inspection, gestured at the scene of devastation and remarked: "There must be 60 more in there."

W. C. Hunt, operations director of the company, was more conservative, however. He said "probably four or five" more bodies still were buried in the wreckage. The damage was estimated at $1,000,000.

The Army and Navy Intelligence Services, the Hercules Company, state police, the Dies committee, local police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New Jersey Legislature were conducting or preparing to start investigations.

More than 200 men were searching for bodies, aided by a steam shovel. In two nearby hospitals 83 persons, some near death, still were receiving treatment.

The whole smokeless powder section of the plant, where work was being speeded on a $2,000,000 Government defense order, was leveled to the ground. A dynamite-making unit escaped damage, however, and the morning shift of workers filed back to the grounds. Casualties had decimated the plant's force of 1,200 employes, but the survivors were all put to work, making dynamite, clearing debris and hunting for bodies.

The scene was swarming with investigators representing the Army and Navy Intelligence services, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Dies committee investigating un-American activities, the New Jersey Legislature and police. Some of the secret agents had come by taxicab from as far as Virginia.

A search of the ruins was delayed by smoldering fires, which had burned fitfully all night, accompanied by puffs of alcohol vapors. Over more than half a square mile hot stones and bricks and molten steel lay in heaps.

Awaiting an opportunity to get onto the grounds, investigators questioned surviving workers, some of whom said that several employees of the Hercules and the Picatinny Army arsenal at Dover, nearby, had been discharged recently as the aftermath of a joint Ku Klux Klan "German" American bund meeting at the bund's Camp Nordland, 10 miles from here.

The workers said that FBI men had watched the meeting and had noticed several cars bearing the small identification plates issued to munitions plant workers, entering the Bund camp. A check-up of those identification plates led to the dismissals, according to the workers.

List of the dead:

EDWARD E. ALLEN, 20, Budd Lake.
JOHN T. ANDICO, 27, Netcong.
HARRY BACK, 29, Patchogue, Long Island.
HAROLD BAKER, 28, Dover.
W. G. BLACK, 32, Flanders.
STUART T. CARROLL, 26, Morristown.
RAYMOND L. CORBY, 50, Rockway.
WILEY DEJONG, 35, Mendham.
REUBEN FANCHER, 22, Succasunna.
RALPH A. GRANATO, 22, Port Morris.
ELIJAH A. GREER, 20, Andrews, North Carolina.
JOHN B. GRIFFITH, 20, Budd Lake.
RAYMOND GULICK, 32, Wharton.
WILLIAM LEMAR HALKYARD, 40, Catawissa, Pennsylvania.
PETER KNOTT, 27, Kenvil.
JAMES G. LIST, 34, Kenvil.
CHARLES L. MOSSER, 45, Pequannock.
WAYNE L. NIELSEN, 26, Ferndale, Michigan.
ROBERT NOLAN, 64, Kenvil.
H. E. OPDYKE, 48, Netcong.
RUBEN PARKER, 51, Dover.
EDWARD H. PAYNE, 20, Randolph.
NICHOLAS D. PISANO, 23, Netcong.
JOHN SAVKO, 20, Mt. Hope.
WALTER SISCO, 31, Branchville.
JACK W. SMITH, 18, Shonghum.
RUSSELL SOSSONG, 28, Ledgewood.
PAUL STALCUP, 33, Mr. Arlington.
ALVIN STOUT, West Belmar.
CHARLES TICE, 47, Mine Hill.
G. E. TOBLER, 27, Bartley.
WARREN WALDRON, Mt. Arlington.
RAYMOND A. WOODS, 18, Kenvil.