Incident Report: 7-Alarm Paterson (NJ) Structure Fire

Multiple firefighters and apparatus on scene at a 7-alarm Paterson (NJ) fire.


By Peter Danzo

Paterson (NJ) firefighters had their hands full on the night of November 9, 2015, when they were dispatched to the area of Market St & Rosa Parks Blvd for a possible building fire at just around 2300 hours.

Upon arrival, Engine 1 reported smoke in the area of the abandoned armory at 465 Market St. The armory, which was built in 1895, covered an entire city block and measured 200′ X 300′ was 3-4 stories in height and was Type 4 mill construction; it had been abandoned since 1990.

As companies investigated, the battalion chief arrived and reported what appeared to be a glow from the center roof area of the building and after further investigation confirmed a working fire. As ccompanies forced entry and searched for the seat of the fire, command requested a second alarm with companies to stage.

The fire was located in the basement and a very aggressive interior attack was started. Several times it appeared that the main body of fire was located but due to the size of the building, the height of the ceilings in the basement (reported to be 20+ Ft), and the heavy smoke condition, conditions slowly deteriorated.

A third alarm was requested and additional lines were stretched into the building. Truck companies worked on ventilation and as more areas were opened up, the smoke became heavy and more intense. Interior companies reported fire breaking through the first floor and it appeared the only way to get ahead of it was to open the floor above.

Deputy 1 requested a fourth alarm and had all truck companies set up around the building in preparation for a defensive attack. With conditions continuing to deteriorate and reports of fire possibly on the second floor, all members were ordered out of the building. Five elevated master streams were put into operation as heavy smoke was pushing from the entire top of the roof and out the front (Market St side of the building). At times, the smoke would appear to subside only to start pushing from the building several minutes later.

As time went on, command requested the fifth, sixth, and finally seventh alarms transmitted and an additional ladder pipe was put into operation as companies continued to pump water into the structure in an attempt to get to the seat of the fire. Due to the size, age, construction and condition of the building the fire apparently made its way through voids and at approximately 06:00, seven hours after the arrival of the first companies, fire started venting out of the roof in several locations.


After a couple more hours of firefighting, all visible fire was knocked down although it was obvious that the fire was still deep seated and at approximately 12:45 (over 12 hours from initial dispatch) command started to release mutual aid companies from the scene but advised it would continue to be a prolonged operation. Thirty-six hours from the initial dispatch, the fire dept remained on the scene, rotating engine companies for fire watch until the building can be demolished and allow companies to finally fully extinguish the remaining fire.

One firefighter is reported to have suffered a minor back injury, six area schools were closed the following day, and 35 residents in the area were evacuated until later in the afternoon due to heavy smoke blanketing the area as well as limited access due to apparatus operating. The cause of the fire is under investigation.



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