Mutual Aid Works for Runnemede

Mutual Aid Works for Runnemede

The entire business district of Runnemede, N. J., was threatened by a roaring fire that destroyed the two-and-one-half story frame Runnemede Supply Company warehouse and ruined two lumberyard trucks on August 16 last. Only the strenuous efforts of volunteer firefighters of the Borough, aided by neighboring forces, prevented a conflagration.

The fire started shortly after 9:00 P.M. from what was later determined to be fuse trouble in the electrical system. It was first noticed by a nearby resident, who notified a policeman who, in turn, ran to Runnemede Fire Hall, a short distance up the Black Horse Pike from the warehouse. The first alarm was sounded at 9:15 P.M., by which time the main warehouse was heavily involved. In less than two minutes, three units of the Runnemede department were at the scene of the fire in command of Fire Chief Harry Beeby.

Chief Beeby immediately saw the danger of the fire spreading and called for help from fire companies in Bellmawr, Bellmawr Park, Mt. Ephriam, Glendora, Barrington and Magnolia. Later, as the flames spread to the second warehouse a general alarm was sounded and the companies responded from Gloucester and other communities.

Two Runnemede units fought the fire from the Clements Bridge road side of the property, operating through the lumberyard from the south side, to prevent involvement of exposed stores. A third truck was located next to Weber’s bakery where its crew endeavored to prevent spread of the flames to north and west.

It was quickly determined the warehouse could not be saved, and firemen concentrated on preserving a frame building on Clements Bridge road, which had become involved, and in killing the fire that was blistering the side of the garage of Paul Joyce. In addition, the fire was spreading toward the Black Horse Pike section of the main warehouse where more highly combustibles were stored.

About this stage, apparatus from neighboring communities began to roll in, and as they reported they were assigned to points surrounding the triangular block of which the Runnemede Supply company is the approximate center. While some companies laddered the exposures, others stretched in lines to fight the fire, and cool down those exposures. Some 24 fire companies, manned by approximately 250 firemen from Camden and Gloucester Counties at the height of the blaze operated some 14 hose lines, some of them laid across the Pike, completely stalling traffic on the busy thoroughfare.

The entire auxiliary of Oaklyn, N. J., aided local police to control the traffic and hold fire lines. Lawnside, N. J., fire officers reported in with manpower only. Gloucester city’s three fire companies each sent apparatus and its township canteen furnished coffee, in every respect it was a splendid example of cooperative fire control operations.

Ten firemen suffered injuries, none of serious nature, but one fireman, Joseph H. Bailey, of Westville, N. J., former president of Union Fire Company, died later after returning home from conditions probably induced by the strain and excitement. The Bellmawr Rescue squad treated most of the injured, only one victim being taken to a hospital. He was Paul Pagano of the Bellmawr Park department.

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Following the fire, which was under control in about an hour, it was reported that arson was suspected, and investigators of the National Board of Fire Underwriters were called. Working with Chief Beeby, Police Chief Paul Erdbrink, and Borough Fire Marshal Louis Porter the cause was finally traced to a defective fuse in a switch box.

Property loss was estimated at $100,000.

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