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West New York Explosion Injures Firefighters on Thanksgiving

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November 23, 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, N.J. - “One minute you're eating turkey-next minute the building explodes underneath your feet,” said North Hudson 2nd Battalion Chief Mike Giacumbo.

On Thanksgiving afternoon, around 5:30 P.M., North Hudson dispatchers sent out a full assignment for a fire reported at the corner of Bergenline Ave. & 53rd St. This was followed by a dispatcher stating there were people trapped, and the alarm room was receiving numerous phone calls.

Battalion Chief Giacumbo reported heavy fire at the corner three-story mixed use building. Flames were venting out of second-floor windows above a pharmacy on the ground floor. People were also at windows. In addition, in this congested area, at lease one company radioed in that they were on a delayed response due to heavy traffic. Deputy Chief Anthony Venezia transmitted the second-alarm while still en route. Firefighters rescued several occupants via ladders. A third-alarm was quickly transmitted. 

Firefighters were also on the roof of the fire building for “truck work”. In addition, members were on the roof of a two-story attached commercial building on the exposure “D” side.  Their work included setting up a ladder to the roof of the fire building for another means of egress.

Within the early minutes of the fire, a fierce explosion occurred involving the exposure “D” building. Firefighters on the roof were seen being lifted off of their feel from that structure and falling into the now collapsed roof, into darkness. A “Mayday” was issued by members on the three-story roof.

In what turned out to be a blessing, the entrance to the apartments, where the fire was burning in the corner building, was located at the rear of the structure on the 53rd Street side. That's where firefighters advanced the first hand line. If the entrance had been on the main street, or Bergenline Avenue side, the crashing down front wall could have landed on firefighters. Broken glass fell clear across the two-way street. 

An evacuation was ordered and a PAR conducted. The heavy venting flames were knocked down by exterior lines and master streams.      

A rescue operation ensued and three injured members were located in the debris and taken down to the street in stokes baskets via aerial ladder. They were then turned over to medical personnel.

Injured members were transported to Jersey City Medical Center and Hackensack Medical Center. Reports stated injuries to firefighters ranged from smoke inhalation to broken bones. The injuries were not considered life-threatening, according to the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office. It was reported that 10 firefighters were injured and 35 residents displaced.  

On the North Hudson Firefighters Association IAFF Local 3950 Facebook page, the following was written: “We appreciate the outpouring of support from around the state, especially from our Brothers in Jersey City and Hackensack fire unions who were at the hospital within minutes to care for our members.” 

The Hudson County Regional Arson Task Force, North Hudson Fire & Rescue, and the West New York Police Department were investigating the fire and explosion, according to the Jersey Journal.

Chief of Department David Donnarumma said the “courageous efforts” of the firefighters were “instrumental in preventing any loss of life during this incident”. 

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RON JEFFERSNew Jersey Editor

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