Fire Tears Through Several Cliffside Park (NJ) Businesses

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A fire on September 5, 2017, consumed three Cliffside Park (NJ) stores that have been part of this community for many years. Before it was over, five alarms had been struck bring in numerous mutual aid fire companies to the scene, located along the Anderson Avenue business strip.

At 7:21 p.m. fire companies were dispatched to 679 Anderson Avenue for a report of a smoke condition. Before units arrived, police confirmed a heavy smoke condition in a rear alley behind AJ Pharmacy. This business is part of a row of attached one-story business that share a common cockloft. Heavy smoke was pouring out of the rear of the building and flames were soon visible.

Chief of Department Dave Martone ordered an “in-borough second alarm” at 7:25 p.m. for additional volunteer members plus a FAST truck from Fairview and Ridgefield Engine 2.

The fire rapidly grew in intensity, spreading through the cockloft, affecting a clothing story and County Discount. A second alarm was sounded, bringing in additional East Bergen County fire companies.

Members had difficulty getting into some of the security doors, but continued to make an aggressive attack with interior handlines and opening up the roof. Low-banking smoke covered the scene for a good portion of the fire, exhausting air supplies.

As conditions began to deteriorate and fire broke through the roof, the evacuation order was sounded.  Exterior handlines, “Blitzfire” monitors, and master streams were established. After the additional alarms were sounded, a total of five ladder pipes, one tower ladder, and a squirt device surrounded the fire buildings from the front and on Lawton and Columbia Avenues. At some points, Cliffside Park Ladder 1’s pipe and Truck 2’s tower were lowered and their streams used to hit the seat of flames in the stores.

These master streams included a ladder pipe, tower, and squirt from Cliffside Park; and ladder pipes from Fairview, Palisades Park, Fort Lee, and Englewood. Additional mutual aid included units from Edgewater, Leonia, Englewood Cliffs, Ridgefield Park, and the Hackensack Mask Service Unit to fill air bottles. The Teaneck Box 54 Club set up a rehab station north of the scene.    

The stubborn fire went on for hours, but firefighters managed to prevent extension to additional attached stores on the north side and from a three-story mixed occupancy structure, containing F&D Frame Co., to the south (separated only by a narrow alley). The roof of County Discount eventually caved in. This store had bee a fixture on the avenue for decades.

The fire was an “old-time” type of fire familiar along this large strip of businesses, which extends from mid-town Union City, where the street is known as Bergenline Avenue, and continuing for several miles to the north end of Cliffside Park.

Several firefighters were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation. Local EMTs also passed out bottled water to firefighters. The fire was declared under control at about 11 p.m.

George Kolodinsky, who operates the F&D Framing business on the south side of the fire buildings, said his building looked okay.

“They did a great job, Cliffside Park,” he said. “They were right on it.”

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