South River, N. J., Hit by Two Major Fires
The value of mutual aid was once again proven as two major fires occurring within three weeks of each other over the Christmas Holidays caused damage estimated in excess of $300,000 in South River, New Jersey.
The first of the fires broke out shortly after 6 P.M. on the night of December 17th at the plant of the Templar Oil Products Company off the end of Whitehead Avenue. South River firemen, under the direction of Assistant Chief Milton Meafe, arriving in response to a telephone alarm, found the fire well under way in the 100 by 150 foot, one story, building which housed equipment for the manufacture of adhesive cement for linoleum blocks and wall tile, as well as offices of the company. Outside aid was requested and apparatus and firemen from the Sayreville Engine Company 1, Morgan Hose and Chemical Company, Old Bridge and East Brunswick volunteer fire departments rushed to the scene while Engine 1 of the Milltown department stood by at South River fire headquarters.
A strong westerly wind and a 10degree temperature greatly handicapped the firemen who battled the flames for six hours before bringing them under control. Hundreds of drums of the adhesive cement stored in the building added to the intensity of the flames, which were visable for miles. Sparks set fire to nearby fields threatening other property in the area, but the determined efforts of the frozen fire-fighters prevented any damage to a new warehouse only fifty feet from the main plant.
Walter Storan of the East Brunswick department was overcome by smoke and was taken to the St. Peters Hospital in New Brunswick where he was admitted as a patient. Three other firemen suffered frostbite and minor injuries but were treated at the scene by members of the South River, Sayreville and Milltown Rescue Squads. In addition to treating the injured, the rescue squads provided hot coffee and sandwiches for the weary firemen and provided floodlights to aid the firemen in their operations.
Walter Marvin, of Westfield, presi(Continued on page 239) dent of the Templar Company, has estimated losses to be approximately $250,000.
South River Fires
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Shortly after 3:45 P.M., on January 5th, 1954, a fire believed caused by a short circuit, ignited a Christmas tree in an apartment on the second floor of a large apartment house at 27-31 Jackson Street, South River. The fire department under the direction of Chief Arthur Reichenbach responded and, upon arrival, found the fire rapidly spreading throughout the entire second floor containing six apartments. Mutual aid was again requested and answered by the same departments that joined forces to fight the Templar Oil company fire.
Hose lines were quickly laid from nearby hydrants and the fire attacked from all sides. As the flames roared through the apartments and out the roof, firemen concentrated their efforts on preventing the flames from extending beyond the building of origin. Seriously exposed was the Bell Telephone Company’s exchange and business office in an adjacent building. Clouds of dense, gray smoke hindered the firefighters and blanketed the entire business section of the town. One fireman was overcome by smoke and one received a cut hand.
Major damage was centered in the apartments although there was heavy water and smoke damage to offices and stores on the ground floor. By 7:25 P.M. the recall had been sounded and all outside fire companies had returned to their quarters. Loss has been estimated at $40,000.