Newark collapse kills one, injures three fire fighters
FALLING WALLS during a fouralarm fire in Newark, N. J., on April 11, resulted in the death of one fireman and seriously injured three others. John Engelhorn & Son, meat processors and packers, stored cardboard boxes, waxed paper, trucks and other supplies in the one-story brick building, 100 by 150 at 18 Avenue L. Large laminated wooden trusses, spaced 12 to 15 feet apart, rested on the exterior walls and supported the roof. This type of trussed roof is commonly used in buildings where large, undivided floor areas are required, since this construction eliminates the need for columns to support the roof.
The first alarm was received at 4:43 a.m. The weather was clear, the wind northwest at 25 miles per hour and the temperature 40° F. First-arriving Engine Company 27 reported a working fire. The fire had started in the southeast section of the building and was spreading rapidly. Apparatus deck pipes were put into operation on the lee side to prevent further extension of the fire. It continued to spread, however, and it was apparent that the entire building would become involved and that a fire of major proportions would develop.
A second alarm was transmitted and all efforts were concentrated on confining the fire. Master stream devices were operated on all sides of the fire. Despite these efforts, the raging fire consumed large stocks of waxed paper and other combustibles. Less than a half hour after the original alarm was received, a third alarm was transmitted.
A group consisting of Firemen Daniel Nozza, Thomas Carroll and Charles Alaimo, all of Engine Co. 5, and Acting Captain Joseph Buhl of Salvage No. 1 were operating in an alley between the fire building and a one-story concrete block building to the north, occupied by the Premier Die Casting Company. They had just raised a ladder against the Premier building, and Buhl was about to climb it when, without warning, the north wall of the fire building collapsed, trapping three firemen under tons of brick, concrete and other debris. As the writer reached the area of collapse, Buhl was emerging, unaided from the wreckage. His helmet had been knocked off and he was covered with dust. He said, “Don’t touch me; my arms are broken,” as he collapsed into the arms of a nearby fireman. He was placed on a stretcher and immediately removed to St. James Hospital. Those were his last words, as he lapsed into unconsciousness and died about seven hours later.
All efforts were now concentrated on rescuing the trapped men. The collapse had filled the nearby atmosphere with flying brands, dust and smoke. A wall of the Premier building had partially collapsed. A fourth alarm was transmitted for manpower and firemen, ignoring the possibility of further collapse, began the tedious task of removing, piece by piece, by hand, the debris that completely covered Firemen Nozza, Carroll and Alaimo. The firemen located them only by listening for their moans and cries. An hour passed before the last fireman was removed.
Fireman Buhl, 35, joined the department in 1956 and had been commended less than a month before his death. Fire Director James T. Owens said he was credited with saving the life of a man who was choking to death. □□