Precedes Scheduled Drill by Thirty – Six Hours

CHIEF FRANKLYN GORDON, of the City of Fort Jervis, New York, announced on May 12, 1955, that a mutual aid drill would be held on May 15, 1955, at which time a house and several outbuildings would be burned. Plans were made to call in three companies front the neighboring State of Pennsylvania and also to call on the County Mutual Aid Plan for several pieces of apparatus. On May 14, 1955, at 12:20 a.m., a fire in the Port Jervis Trucking Company’s garage forced the use of the above plan just 36 hours prior to the scheduled drill.

This Is the Way It Was Planned

A 2-story house, a 2-car garage, a 10′ x 10′ shed, an 8′ x 30′ chicken coop and two small sheds. 4′ x 6′ and 4′ x 8′ were condemned and ordered torn down. Chief Gordon thought that it would provide a good mutual aid drill if these buildings could be burned down. The Erie Railroad, owner of the buildings, gave their permission and arrangements were made as follows: The drill was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 15, 1955. Fire companies from Matamoras, Pa., Westfall Township, Pa., and Milford, Pa., were asked to participate. The Orange County Fire Coordinator, George Brundage, arranged for apparatus from Sparrowbush, N. Y.; Cuddebackville, N. Y., and Greenville Township to respond to a mutual aid call. Other companies were to be shifted to cover the companies responding.

This Is What Actually Happened

Shortly before 12:20 a.m. on May 14, 1955, the internal fire alarm on the garage of Port Jervis Trucking Company started to ring. This alarm had been installed in 1954. Several area residents heard the alarm hell but they did not know what it was. Finally, a neighbor, who was out trying to ascertain what the bell meant, saw a glow through one of the rear windows of the garage and turned in the alarm. All seven pieces of the Port Jervis Fire Department answered to Box 221. Upon arrival efforts were made to drive some of the tractor units out of the garage, but (flames mushroomed through the building so fast that only one truck could he saved. A call was sent to the Orange County Mutual Aid headquarters for aid. Cuddebackville and Sparrowbush trucks were sent in to cover the city. Matainoras. Pa., Fire Dept, sent both its units which were used to supply a ladder pipe. A deck gun and a deluge set were also in operation as were also four 1 1/2-inch nozzles, three 1-inch, one 1 1/8inch nozzle, and several 5/8-inch nozzles. During the height of the fire, exploding gasoline tanks of the trucks added to the fierceness of the blaze. Large quantities of pungent smoke were given off by the stock of tires stored in the building. At one time all spectators were cleared from the area when it was feared that a large gasoline storage tank might let go. The Rescue truck of the Fowler Rescue and Salvage Co. was used as a first aid station. It was manned by A. H. Kenniston, M.D., the company surgeon and George Kenny, M.D., assisting. One fireman was treated for cuts at the scene and one man was given first aid for a severe cut on his forearm and sent to the hospital. Several cases of smoke inhalation were also treated.

The mutual aid drill, as a sort of anticlimax, was held as scheduled. All the apparatus that had been at the original fire moved into action. In addition. Greenville Township. N. Y., and Milford. Pa., sent in a rig each. The alarm, from Box 13. was turned in at 2:33 p.m. By 2:37 p.m. there were four 1 1/2 lines in operation. By 2:45 p.m., a 2-truck relay of 1100 feet was pouring water through the 500 gpm fog nozzle of a ladder pipe. At 2:57 p.m. another relay was in operation using the Milford truck, which had arrived at 2:50 p.m. Before 3:00 p.m. all 13 units, responding or covering in, were in place and operating. All mutual aid calls, except for Pennsylvania units, were made through KEE 315. the Orange County Base Station, which was placed in operation only the day before. Chief Gordon pronounced the drill a success, adding, “It should be, we had a $150,000 practice session.”

Here is comparison of two operations.

I’Olt l’ JHIiVIS THI CKlNfi KIltK Mutual Aid Drill

If wilding*— 100′ x 50′ garage destroyed ………….. 2 story house destroyed. 100′ x 50′ warehouse damaged ……….. 2 car garage destroyed. 80′ x 30′ truck shed damaged ……….. 4 sheds destroyed.

Contents 9 Truck tractors destroyed…………….. Rubbish and old lumber. 1.200 gallons of gasoline. Tools and equipment. Large stock of truck tires.

A ppnrntus One 75-ft. aerial……………………… One 75-ft. aerial. One rescue and salvage……………….. One rescue and salvage. Nine pumpers ………………………. Eleven pumpers.

Equipment Deck gun—1 1/2″ tip…………………… Fog nozzle 500 gpm and ladder pipe. Deluge set—1%” tip. Dadder pipe—1 1/4″ tip. Nine—2 1/2″ hose lines and nozzles………. • • . . One—2 1/2″ hose line and nozzle. Five—1 1/2 hose lines and nozzles………. • • . . Twelve—1 1/2″ hose lines and nozzles 5,350 feet of 2 1/2″ hose ……………….. . . . . 4,250 feet of 2 1/2 hose. 750 feet of 1 1/2 hose …………………. ….1,200 feet of hose. 500 feet of booster host?. 4,240 gpm discharged ……………….. • …1,425 gpm discharged. Total gallons—over 410,000 ……………. . . . . Total gallons—over 65.000. Total time—4 hours 40 mins……………. . . . . Total time 1 hour and 45 mins, Trucks had to return on May 16, 1955, to wet smoldering embers.

Port Jervis Trucking Co. fire at its height.

Photo by Richard Milbum

Trucking Co. garage at Port Jervis after fire had been extinguished.

Photo by R. R. Wheeler

Chronology of Mutual Aid Drill

Fire touched off at 2:30 p.m. by Vernon Kalin.

Alarm sent by radio from fire chief’s car at 2:33 p.m.

First unit. Excelsior, from 2 blocks distance, laid 400’ of 2 1/2″-hose and 300′ of l 1/2″-hose on Union Street. Had water at 2:37; arrived 2:34 p.m.

Fowler Rescue and Salvage and Neversink arrived 2:35 p.m.—Rj-mile runs. Neversink dropped skid load of 100′ of 2 1/2″ and 300′ of all coupled by means of wye. Laid 750′ of 2 1/2″ to hydrant on New Street. Had water in two minutes.

Delaware Engine, Howard Wheat and Maghogomock H. & L. arrived at 2:37 p.m.

Ladder parked at corner of Union and R.R. Circle and ladder pipe operated to protect exposure. 500 gpm fog nozzle.

Delaware laid double line of 2 1/2”-hose trom hydrant on River Road to R.R. Circle. One straight lay and one reverse lay with adaptors.

Howard Wheat laid two lines of 2 1/2″ from Ferry Street to Delaware River. Dropped suction in river.

Tri-State Engine 6 arrived at 2:37. Laid double 2 1/2”-line from H. & L. to River Road and coupled into lines from Delawares, making a relay from hydrant on River Road through Delaware, TriState and H. & L. This relay in operation eight minutes after arrival, despite fact that one length of hose had to be replaced.

Milford arrived at 2:50 p.m.. making 7-mile run in seven minutes. They laid 600′ of 2 1/2 and coupled to Howard Wheat hose, making 1,050 feet lay. Coupled to end of this line and relayed through one 2 1/2″-line and two 1 1/2″lines.

Sparrowbush reported to Orange Street truck house at 2:45 p.m.

Matamoras reported to Orange Street truck house at 2:47 p.m.

Westfall Township reported to Orange Street truck house at 3:09 p.m. Delay on this call.

Cuddebackville arrived at fire scene at 3:00, with running time of 15 minutes. Run of 10 miles.

Greenville Township reported to TriState truck house.

All units responding to Mutual Aid alarm were covered by adjoining companies which were alerted. The initial mutual aid call and a number of subsequent calls were handled by KEE 315, Orange County Fire Radio Station, which was on the air during the drill. KEE 315 went off the air at 3:47 p.m.

The recall was sounded at 4:12 p.m., and it was discovered that the Fire Horn was out of service. Only sirens available in city until 11 a m. on May 18, 1955 (68 hours out of service).

All stand-by units were relieved at

4:05 p.m.

All units cleared fire area by 4:30, except Excelsior which remained to wet down.

Mutual aid demonstration at Port Jervis. Fire just before arrival of first unit.

Photo by Clendennen

First company gets into action at Port Jervis mutual aid demonstration fire.

Photo by Clendennen

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