NEW JERSEY ASYLUM BURNS WITHOUT LOSS OF LIFE
Fire Department Does Good Work Under Difficulties—Blaze Starts Beneath Cupola and Spreads Along Roof—Insane Patients Routed
NOT one of the 1,400 patients at the New Jersey State Hospital at Greystone Park was lost in a fire that broke out at midnight and destroyed the two top floors of the right wing. The building, consisting of administration quarters and dormitory space was fifty-two years old. The institution for the insane was really a city in itself. Besides the building involved there are laboratories, shops, quarters for the employees, power house and a railroad siding with freight house. Nearly one thousand employees and 3,700 patients are quartered at Greystone Park.
Fire started from an undetermined cause, in a cupola on the right wing of the huge, five-story stone building and burned through several hundred feet on both sides of this point. It affected sixty wards.
The alarm was given by the hospital’s fire alarm system, and the three pieces of apparatus on the grounds were sent out immediately. The asylum has its own fire department consisting of a full time chief and a trained force of firemen. Calls for assistance were sent to Morristown, Morris Plains and Morris Township, and all responded quickly.
It was impossible to fight the fire at close range. There was nothing substantial upon which the ladders could rest, and all openings and windows leading out to the roof were heavily barred as a protection for the patients. The fire had to be fought from the ground until reinforcements and more apparatus arrived.
Several large streams were put in operation, but by this time the fire had gained considerable headway in the attic. The fire traveled along concealed passages beneath the roof and soon the entire top story of the right center wing was gutted, and the fire was burning along the inside roof peak of a four-story annex. Many times when the fire was believed to be under control, it would suddenly break out in a new’ place.
Falling slate from the roof made the work of the firemen extremely difficult. One fire-fighter received a bad scalp wound when he was struck by a slate. The barrage of heavy streams broke through the slate roof and the top floors were flooded. This prevented the fire from reaching the lower floors. A number of streams were operated within the building.
Good work was done by the fire fighters. The buildings involved were only wings of a much larger central building to which many other additions, similar to the one destroyed, were joined—practically all of non-fireproof construction.
The water supply was good. It was pumped from a reservoir on the grounds.
There were two Ahrens-Fox pumpers in use—one sent by Morristown, a Waterous pumper of Morris Plains, a Mack pumper of Morris Township, a city service ladder truck belonging to the township department and a city service truck of Morristown. This unit was later recalled to quarters and an Ahrens-Fox aerial ladder sent to the fire. Morristown also sent its new searchlight truck. Several smaller pieces of apparatus were in service.
Patients from the burning wards were rushed into a large recreation hall, and the attendants started group singing. Strangely, they preferred to sing. “Keep the Home Fires Burning.” State police established a fire line about the grounds and prevented patients from getting away.
It is said the damage will be over $700,000. Officials were enthusiastic in their praise of the fire-fighters who prevented greater property damage and possible loss of life. Three years ago, lightning struck a cupola and started a fire that was soon extinguished.