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Another Night of Fire for North Hudson

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February 08, 2023 | NEW JERSEY RON JEFFERS, New Jersey Editor
This article is a direct street report from our correspondent and has not been edited by the 1st Responder newsroom.

WEST NEW YORK & UNION CITY, NJ - Since 2001, there have been several nights of fire involving the North Hudson municipalities covered by the North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue. Several multiple-alarm fires occurring at the same time putting a strain on mutual aid and calling in fire companies from several nearby counties to either operate at a fire or relocate and cover vacant firehouses.

History again repeated itself on the morning of February 8th. One difference. The second major fire came in when the sun was up and the new tour had reported for duty. In addition, the weather was mild with temperatures in the 50's, as opposed to subfreezing temperatures.

At 4:20 A.M., Fire Control dispatched a full assignment to 6113 Bergenline Avenue for a reported fire. This was followed by a radio report that the communication center was receiving numerous calls.

Turning the corner from their 60th street firehouse, Captain Chris Jorquera reported smoke showing, followed by working fire. The fire was rapidly extending upward and horizontally into attached buildings along the congested main shopping district. Second and third alarms were transmitted in short order. A fourth alarm followed at 5:24 A.M.

The occupancies involved in the buildings included electronics, smoke shop, beauty supply, nail salon, clothing, media production studio and restaurants. Fire raced through the attached structures with plenty of fuel to burn. Early primary searches revealed no occupants, but a heavy fire load.

Thick black smoke continued to pour out of the store fronts on Bergenline Avenue of the one and two story structures. Van Buren Pl., a small street to the rear of these buildings, provided access for fire apparatus and firefighters to operate. From heavy black smoke, flames broke through the roofs and lit up the morning sky, in the rear. Forced entry, and hand line operations commenced. Tower Ladder 3 was also positioned here. A back draft occurred in this area. Battalion Chief Glenn Gavin notified the incident commander, Deputy Chief Mark Franco, of same, and a roll call was taken. All members were accounted for. As the heavy fire and heat consumed the rear of the structures, the tower was moved up to a better position to operate. Later, Jersey City Ladder 3 set up and utilized a ladder pipe from the corner of 61st Street.

On Bergenline Avenue, master streams were set up that included two ladder pipes, a squirt, deck gun and multiversal. Thick, low-banking smoke traveled in an easterly direction toward the Hudson River.

The fire was declared under control at 12:30 P.M., by Chief of Department David Donnarumma. The chief said demolition crews were called in to knock down the buildings that were in a state of collapse. In all, another building suffered water and smoke damage and a residential building with 11 families was also damaged, according to officials.

The Gong Club canteen unit reported to the scene for rehab purposes and set up on the avenue, while the usual heavy morning traffic was rerouted from the smoky scene.

During this fire, numerous mutual aid fire companies were called in from nearby municipalities. They were busy answering other emergency runs, including elevator entrapment calls.

As firefighters were still battling to bring the West New York fire under control, Fire Control transmitted a reported fire at 1009 Bergenline Avenue, in Union City, at 8:34 A.M. A “first due” police sergeant reported heavy smoke and ordered personnel to evacuate buildings. The first engine in was North Hudson Engine 14 with off duty members that were recalled to duty. North Hudson First Battalion Chief Kevin Cowan was right behind. He reported heavy smoke, that covered the building, and followed with a second alarm order.

Along with North Hudson Engine 15, mutual aid fire units that followed included engines from Belleville and Bloomfield, a Montclair truck and a Secaucus tower ladder. This was followed by units from Jersey City, Bayonne, Kearny and Harrison, as additional alarms were sounded by Deputy Chief Anthony Venezia.

The fire appeared to have started in a small auto supply store. Next door was a smoke shop with roll-down gates, hampering firefighting efforts. Low-banking and choking smoke filled the block as fire quickly spread to Exposure B, a three-story mixed occupancy building, and Exposure D, also a three-story mixed.

Very heavy and black smoke rose from the buildings creating an impressive column in the sky. Early searches were made and exterior lines were set up. Master streams included ladder pipes from Montclair Truck 1, Bayonne Ladder 3 and Secaucus Tower 2. An air supply unit reported to the scene from the IMTT Fire Department, from Bayonne. In addition, the Hackensack Mask Service Unit was on the scene as well as Jersey City's MSU.

The Union City fire displaced 60 people in 17 families, according to a Jersey Journal report. In total, five attached buildings suffered damage and power to the area was turned off temporarily.

The multiple-alarm fires caused mutual aid to be activated to cover the North Hudson municipalities, plus operate at the fires, from the counties of Bergen, Essex, Union and Passaic. Since the Gong Club was operating in West New York, the Bayonne Fire Canteen was summoned set up at the Union City location.

The last local Night of Fire occurred on a cold December 1st, 2022 evening when multiple alarms were struck for a large mixed occupied building in West New York, followed by an explosion and fire at a Salvation Army thrift store in Union City, during the West New York blaze. This brought in a lot of mutual aid from several counties.

Chief Donnarumma said the mutual aid units were invaluable in minimizing the damage. He also complimented the mutual aid coordinators for their assistance.

(CONT'D. TO STORY #021023104)

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RON JEFFERSNew Jersey Editor

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