Incident report and photos by Ron Jeffers
On April 19, 2016, after firefighters knocked down a large brush fire off of Harrison Ave. in Kearny, New Jersey, the sky over the Meadowlands was covered with an even larger and darker column of smoke coming from Secaucus.
On this date a Red Flag Warning was issued for most of the state by the National Weather Service in Mount Holly. A dry, windy sunny day in April provide the right conditions for large brush and wildfires. According to News 12 New Jersey, some parts of the state had a 13 percent humidity level.
Firefighters from Kearny, assisted by Jersey City, fought a three-alarm brush fire for three hours in the area of the U.S. Postal Complex. Then, around 12:30 p.m., flames rose from the Secaucus Meadowlands in the area of Secaucus Road, Penhorn Ave., and Henry St. The high winds helped spread the flames, which threatened railroad tracks and commercial buildings in the area. The state police also requested pumpers on the eastern spur of the New Jersey Turnpike as flames were moving in that direction as well. The fire jumped to the Frank Lautenberg Transfer Station area, crossed the Penhorn Avenue warehouse district, and got to the Jersey City line, where it was stopped.
The fire caused a huge delay in mass transit. Rail lines between Newark and New York City were stopped. Firefighters faced “terrible” conditions of high winds and dry brush, Secaucus Mayor Mike Gonnelli said. The mayor is also a volunteer firefighter and ex-chief.
Numerous handlines were used as well as deck guns and a tower ladder. When proper water supply lines were established, the fire was darkened down. Mutual aid fire units came in from Jersey City, North Hudson, Lyndhurst, Moonachie, East Rutherford, Carlstadt, and Ridgefield, an official said. In addition, the New Jersey Transit Police responded with their ESU truck equipped with pumping capabilities.
“It was a concentrated effort by a lot of different agencies,” Gonelli said. “The firefighters did a great job protecting properties.”