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May 02, 2024 | 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.

Union City, N.J. - A fire involving a “rear address” dwelling put local firefighters to the test on a warm May 2nd afternoon.  The rear address fire involved a 2 ½ story wood-frame dwelling located in the middle of a city block, behind buildings fronting on the streets, with access via narrow alleyways. 

Around 2 p.m., North Hudson Fire Control began receiving calls for a fire in the rear of a building on the 400-block of 40th Street.  Second Battalion Chief Ed Valdivia radioed in smoke visible from a distance. 

Fire control notified responding units that they were now receiving calls for a fire on the 400-block of 41stStreet.  The companies that arrived on 40th Street reported a fire behind the building fronting on the street, which housed a children's day care.  It appeared that the main access to this fire building was from the 41st Street side.  That's where additional units on the first alarm reported to. 

The rear of the fire building, visible through alleys on 40th Street, was fully involved in flames.  Squad Co, 1 stretched a hand line through a narrow alley to the rear of the fire building, while other companies lined-in from 41stStreet, through an even smaller alleyway.  Additional hand lines were stretched through the back yards of other addresses. 

During this time, smoke was noted showing from the roof level of a one-story structure attached to the fire building, with an entrance facing toward 40th Street.  This rear structure appeared to be a former garage that was converted into an apartment.  Firefighters went into the apartment with a hand line and quickly knocked down the fire. That hand line was then returned to the rear of the original fire building, for use again. 

Hand lines streams quickly knocked down the flames that were consuming the “C” side from bottom to top.  However, fire was inside the structure from the ground level and was spreading  up voids to the attic, and eventually through the roof. 

Ground ladders had to be carried through alleys on both sides to provide egress on to the burning structure.  Fire consumed all three floors.  When it appear that progress was being made, smoke and flames would appear in another portion of the dwelling.  Firefighters said it was difficult reaching the voids above the ceiling in the attic area.

Firefighters were ordered out of the structure which was followed by a partial roof collapse at the rear. 

When conditions improved, firefighters used saws and pike poles to open up the voids and overhaul hot spots. 

Due to the labor intensive fire, a total of four-alarms were transmitted.  The fourth alarm consisted of a mutual aid response of two engines, a truck and two battalion chiefs from Jersey City, to the scene.    

Besides difficult access to the fire building, the streets in this section of the city are very narrow,with parking on both sides of many streets.  In one of the most densely populated municipalities in the country, additional problems for firefighters include traffic congestion and overhead power lines, that make it difficult for pump and aerial ladder operations. 

The fire was declared under control at 4:58 p.m. by Chief of Department David Donnarumma.

On this warm afternoon, firefighters needed relief during the battle.  Many members sought shade on the street to take off their gear and cool off.  The Jersey City Gong Club canteen unit was on the scene with members providing copious amounts of bottled water for members on each side of the fire.  A few firefighters were treated for non-life threatening injuries. 

During the fire, a major MVA occurred on Tonnelle av. in North Bergen.  This is another municipality covered by the regional department.  Mutual aid fire units that were relocated to North Hudson houses were dispatched to extricate victims.    

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RON JEFFERSNew Jersey Editor

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