Article and photos by Ron Jeffers
More than 50 firefighters were felled by heat exhaustion and other injuries when they battled a four-alarm fire in 100-degree humid weather on Boyd Avenue in Jersey City, New Jersey, on the afternoon of July 19th.
Sources say the fire may have started in an illegal basement apartment in the two-family wood-frame structure. Arriving units encountered heavy smoke in the basement and first-floor areas. Additional alarms were transmitted by Deputy Chief Kevin Stewart as fire extended up walls, and due to the weather.
When firefighters reported that there was heavy fire racing through the cockloft, all members were ordered off of the roof and to evacuate the building. A rapid evacuation commenced as flames and thick black smoke broke through the roof. An explosion the occurred and scattered onlookers. It was later discovered that the cause was an air pack left on the roof during the evacuation.
The roof of the structure collapsed and there was extension of fire into Exposures B and D, which suffered "moderate damage."
The fourth alarm brought in mutual aid fire companies from the Bayonne and North Hudson Regional fire departments to the scene. It took more than three hours before the fire was declared under control.
Twenty-six firefighters were treated at the Jersey City Medical Center (JCMC) and 27 firefighters and EMTs treated at the scene, officials said. Numerous JCMC and private ambulances were dispatched to the scene along with rehab units from the Jersey City Office of Emergency Management. In addition, canteen trucks from the Gong Club and Bayonne Fire Canteen provided refreshments and cold rags to firefighters.