Photos and story by Ron Jeffers
As local residents in Harrison, New Jersey, were preparing for the St. Patrick's Day parade along Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. on March 10, 2013, a police officer noticed smoke coming from a building at the corner of Davis St. and called in a fire.
Police evacuated area residents and a church congregation of about 50 people on the second-floor. The Harrison Fire Department arrived with six on-duty firefighters and called for mutual aid immediately from Kearny and East Newark.
Additional mutual aid brought in units from Jersey City, North Arlington, Lyndhurst and Secaucus.
About one hour into the fire a backdraft occurred, venting smoke and flames, and knocked several firefighters to the ground. Five Jersey City firefighters, including a battalion chief, were taken to the hospital and treated for nonlife-threatening injuries.
Five ladder pipes, a tower ladder, and deck gun were used during the fire. It took about six hours to bring the multiple-alarm fire under control. The Red Cross was called to assist approximately 15 residents of affected structures.
According to Jersey City Fire Director Armando Roman, his city firefighters were pulling down ceilings on the second floor of the corner mixed-occupancy building when the order came to vacate the structure because of the immense heat inside the building. As firefighters from Ladder Co. 9 were coming down the stairs, the backdraft explosion occurred and blew off their air masks and helmets and threw them onto the street. Some of them were briefly knocked unconscious, Roman said.
Five members, including a battalion chief, were taken to Jersey City Medical Center and treated for injuries that included a concussion, lacerations, burns to the ears, smoke inhalation and a back injury.
The New Jersey Division of Fire Safety and ATF personnel are now at the scene for an investigation.