Big Streams Cut Off School Fire

Big Streams Cut Off School Fire

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Fire in a 70-year-old school in Leonia, N.J., was kept from extending to the adjoining newer and larger building by the extensive use of mutual aid to develop master streams. Soon after the first alarm was sounded, fire burned through the roof of the old three-story brick building of the Anna C. Scott Elementary School.

Responding to the alarm struck at 1:32 a.m. last August 21, Leonia Engine 2, a 1000-gpm pumper, entered the Broad Avenue gate to the school yard and stretched two 2 1/2-inch lines, one with a water thief, to the hydrant at Crescent Avenue and Highland Street. The Leonia ladder truck, a 750-gpm quad, entered the same gate and the men began laddering the adjoining newer building. At the same time, Leonia’s rescue truck crew began setting up floodlights.

Leonia Engine 1, a 1000-gpm pumper, entered the school yard on the north through the Fort Lee Road gate and stretched two 2 ½-inch lines, one with a water thief, to the hydrant opposite the gate.

Mutual aid requested

Leonia Chief Anthony Liccardo immediately requested the Cliffside Park headquarters of the East Bergen Firemen’s Mutual Aid Association consisting of eight fire departments, for an aerial and pumper, and at 1:48 a.m., the Palisades Park 100-foot aerial and Fort Lee Engine 4 responded.

Meanwhile, Leonia fire fighters stretched a 2 1/8-inch line to a roof adjoining the fire building and began to hit the fire on the second floor of the old school. At the same time, a 1 1/2inch line was taken up the fire escape to work on the fire, which was extending through the third floor, and a second 1 1/2 -inch line was advanced up the inside stairway. Both attempts to reach the fire from inside the building were abandoned when the roof started to collapse.

When the Palisades Park aerial arrived, it set up for ladder pipe operation on the north side of the school. Two of Leonia’s 2 1/2-inch hand lines were then shifted to feed the ladder pipe.

The Leonia Ambulance Corps responded under the direction of Ellen Openheimer and while a first aid station was being set up, a call was made for more ambulances. The mutual aid system dispatched Fort Lee, Palisades Park and Fairview ambulances to assist the Leonia Corps. At 2:05 a.m., a request was made for Box 54, the Teaneck Fire Department canteen.

More aerials called

A second request for an aerial was made to mutual aid headquarters, and Ridgefield’s 85-foot aerial responded at 2:20 a.m. It set up on the south side of the school and Fort Lee Engine 4 stretched two lines from the aerial to the hydrant at Broad and Crescent Avenues.

At 2:27 a.m., Fort Lee’s 100-foot aerial and Cliffside Park Engine 4 were called. Engine 4 stretched two lines from the ladder truck, positioned on the west side of the school, to the hydrant at Crescent Avenue and Oaktree Place.

Fairview Hose Company 4 responded to a request for another pumper at 2:40 a.m. and 10 minutes later, Englewood Cliffs Engine 1 answered a call to bring more floodlights to the foreground.

Flames break through roof of old school building, above, in Leonia, N.J., as fire fighters operate hand lines from roof of newer section of school.Palisades Park ladder company directs aerial stream to roof area of 70-year-old school building

Joseph Licata photos.

The Palisades Park chief asked his department at 2:54 a.m. to send a pumper to relay water to his aerial on the north side of the school. This pumper set up next to the aerial and took one line from Leonia Engine 1 and pumped to the ladder pipe.

At 3:02 a.m., the Fort Lee chief asked for Fort Lee Engine 3 to use its deck gun on the west side of the school. Engine 3 was fed by Fort Lee Engine 4.

More floodlights were brought to the fireground by Edgewater Volunteer Company 1 in response to a request made at 3:10 a.m., and at 3:19 a.m., the Ridgefield assistant chief requested a pumper from his department to relay to his aerial’s ladder pipe. Ridgefield Engine 3 responded and set up next to the Ridgefield aerial.

Short relay to aerial

The fourth aerial, Edgewater’s 85foot ladder, was requested to respond at 4:20 a.m. Two standby pumpers, Fairview Hose Company Engine 2 and Englewood Cliffs Engine 1 set up a relay. Fairview Engine 2 stretched two lines 500 feet from the Edgewater aerial and Englewood Cliffs Engine 1 continued with another 500 feet of parallel lines to a hydrant at Fort Lee Road and Gladwin Avenue.

The fire was fought by 200 paid and volunteer fire fighters and four ladder pipe streams were used, along with other streams. The fire was declared under control at 5:30 a.m. and from then on, companies were gradually released as the Ridgefield aerial was the last mutual aid unit to return to quarters.

All eight departments in the association that operated Mutual Aid Headquarters in Cliffside Park were represented at this fire. The departments in the association are Cliffside Park, Edgewater, Englewood Cliffs, Fairview, Fort Lee, Leonia, Palisades Park and Ridgefield. All the departments are volunteer with the exception of Cliffside Park and Edgewater, which are part-paid.

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