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Dry, Low Humidity, and Winds in April Equal 7 Alarms

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April 11, 2023 | NEW JERSEY RON JEFFERS & PAUL SCHAETZLE, New Jersey Editor
This article is a direct street report from our correspondent and has not been edited by the 1st Responder newsroom.

JERSEY CITY, NJ - The dry-windy, April weather hit New Jersey firefighters hard with wildfires, brush fires and structure fires. A paper recycling company was also the victim of a large fire on the afternoon of April 11th, that escalated to seven alarms.

At 2:34 P.M., city fire companies were dispatched to Box 607 for a fire reported on Caven Point Avenue. Heavy smoke was rising and blocking out the Manhattan skyline. Captain Omar Manning, of Engine Co. 8, reported an outside fire involving large bales of paper and he transmitted a second-alarm upon arrival. 

Large bales of paper and cardboard, some stacked three high reaching 30-feet, were burning in the yard of Reliable Paper Company at 21 Caven Point Ave., and fire was threatening a warehouse. The warehouse had recently been converted to a sound stage. Reliable Paper is reported to be one of the largest recycling companies in the tri-state area. It has been operating in the city for some 30-years, with 60 employees. Hose lines were hooked up to the warehouse sprinkler system. 

Fire companies had limited access to the area that dead ends at a railroad embankment. Flames jumped both the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail tracks and smoke covered the Newark Bay-Hudson County NJ Turnpike extension. 

Second Battalion Chief William Raleigh reported a large volume of fire involving bales of paper with exposure problems. The chief ordered power for the Light Rail to be shut down in the area. A second-alarm was ordered. Rescue 1 reported that fire had extended across the building and into the weeds. B.C. Raleigh transmitted a third-alarm. Master streams were set up that included ladder pipes, tower ladders and deck guns. It was noted that there were no working fire hydrants on the property. Stacks of wood pallets, opposite the burning yard, were wet down by a deck gun. Heavy equipment was also used to separate the burning piles of paper and cardboard, as firefighters also used hand lines on the burning materials. 

Rescue 1 reported fire inside the building. Engine 8 fed the sprinkler connection. Engine 13 alerted Engine 22 that their two-inch hand line was burning through. A third-alarm was struck by the battalion chief.

Deputy Chief William McClintock arrived and assumed command. He special called Tower Ladder 6; however the company was using a spare aerial ladder. The deputy chief then ordered a fourth-alarm. 

Low-banking smoke, in high winds, covered the neighborhood. Small fires had also ignited along railroad tracks from Bayview Avenue to the Liberty Science Center. Flames were rolling around brush along Light Rail tracks off of Phillip St. Third Battalion Chief Richard Gorman responded to Phillip St. to cover that area. D.C. McClintock ordered a fifth-alarm, with that assignment going to assist Battalion 3. The fire, and thick smoke, were impinging on the elevated turnpike extension, that leads to the Holland Tunnel, and it was ordered shut down.

Firefighters noted black smoke coming from above on the turnpike extension, and went to investigate. A car was burning and the North Hudson task force was dispatched to that fire. Deputy Chief McClintock's progress report included a report of an extensive outside fire that extended to a building. The area is 1,000-feet by 500-feet. Fire has extended into the railroad cut and the meadows. He concluded this report with, “Lotta work”. 

The deputy chief ordered a sixth-alarm. More companies were assigned to the Liberty Science Center area. Flames in Liberty State Park were also being handled by the NJ Forest Service. Third B.C. Gorman reported that he could use forest fire trucks along the turnpike. 

Fire companies were still needed at the south end of the property. A seventh-alarm was transmitted with Kearny Engine 1, Tower 2 and their deputy chief reporting to that area, where a tower ladder operation was established.  

Numerous mutual aid fire units from several counties filled city houses. The Gong Club canteen even invoked mutual aid and the Bayonne Fire Canteen responded to the scene.          

There was a weather alert to news agencies earlier in the day that a dry air mass will combine with winds to create conditions conductive for fire spread. 

Fires around the state, at this time, included a large wildfire in Manchester Township. Mandatory evacuation orders were placed into operation as buildings were threatened by fire extension.

Later in the afternoon, a large brush fire consumed some 800-acres of park area off of DeGraw Avenue and Teaneck Road, in Teaneck, close to homes. A large amount of mutual aid was also activated for this fire.

The rundown is as follows: 14:34 hrs. Box 607. Eng. Co.'s 8-22-19-9, Lad Co.'s 4-8, Res. 1, Batt. 2, Dep. 1.

14:36 hrs. Working Fire. Eng. 2, Sq. 1, Batt. 4, MSU.

14:36 hrs. 2nd alarm. Eng. Co.'s 17-13-1, Sq. 4, Lad. 11, Batt. 3, Car 3, 26.

14:48 hrs. 3rd alarm. Eng. Co.'s 5-6-7, Lad. Co. 2, Batt. 1.

14:54 hrs. Sp. Call Lad. Co. 6.

14:59 hrs. 4th alarm. Eng. Co.'s 15-18-11, Lad. Co. 9, Cars 4 and 8.

15:13 hrs. 5th alarm. Eng. Co.'s 10-14, Lad. Co.'s 7-3.

15:36 hrs. 6th alarm. Bayonne Eng. Co.'s 6-5-7, Bayonne Lad. Co. 3, Bayonne Batt. 4.

16:10 hrs. 7th alarm. Kearny Eng. 1, Tower 2, Kearny D.C., Harrison Eng. 2.  JC Batt. 6.

15:29 hrs. Box 615.  North Hudson Eng. Co.'s 1-9, Lad. Co. 4, Batt. 1. 

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