Firefighters Battle 5-Alarm Union City (NJ) Fire

Article and photo by Ron Jeffers

An early morning fire quickly spread from one attached wood-frame building to another in densely populated Union City, New Jersey, on May 6, displacing around 50 residents.

Shortly before 2 a.m., North Hudson Regional Fire Department units were dispatched for a reported fire at 201 New York Avenue. The dispatcher reported two phone calls reporting a fire on the first floor with people still asleep in apartments above. City police and a unit from the Hudson County’s Sheriff’s Office were first on the scene reporting a working fire. There was fire showing behind the roll down security door of a grocery store on the ground floor. A city police unit reported smoke also showing from 203 and 205 New York Avenue. These buildings were attached 2 1/2 story wood-frame dwellings in a row of five. They began alerting tenants and evacuating the buildings. Residents ran out into the street with the clothing on their backs into 50 degree weather.

Engine Co. 1 arrived to report a fire to the Fire Control dispatcher. This was shortly followed by a second-alarm. Firefighters had difficulties getting into the store due to the security door and a business loaded with stock, creating difficult access through side doors. Flames quickly spread up the voids in the mixed occupancy building to the roof. A third-alarm was struck by Deputy Chief Dave Curtis.

Firefighters had to begin a defensive attack on the original building while stretching hoselines and opening up in the exposures. By this time, smoke was showing from the cockloft of all five attached 2 1/2-story dwellings. Fourth and fifth alarms were transmitted for additional manpower bring companies from Jersey City to the scene.

The original building and the immediate exposures experienced collapse conditions at the roof and walls. Two ladder pipes were used and as many as 16 handlines. An aggressive interior attack was utilized in the end buildings as firefighters pulled walls and ceilings to expose and extinguish fire.

The fire was under control as the sun rose; however, numerous, inaccessible hot spots kept fire companies on the scene throughout the morning.

Displaced residents were taken to a nearby school by police and the Red Cross was setting up shelter for them. The NJ Division of Fire Safety was called in to investigate the multiple-alarm blaze where over 100 firefighters operated. There was a report on one minor firefighter injury throughout it all.

See more photos from this fire HERE.

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