Three-Company Department Gets Workout at Big Fire
The most spectacular and costly fire in the history of the Borough of Milltown, New Jersey, occurred during the early morning hours of April 1, 1955. when flames completely destroyed a large warehouse stocked with floo. coverings including linoleum, rugs and asphalt and rubber tile.
A telephone alarm at 2:40 A.M brought the entire Milltown department consisting of one ladder and two engine companies, to the scene under the direction of Chief Miles H. Geer and Assistant Chiefs Joseph J. Cooper and Rudolph A. Pulda. Upon arrival, fire had already broken through the roof of the twostory frame structure, formerly used as a cooperage and now serving as a warehouse for E. V. Kraus, a floor covering concern. Ernest Rios, 49. who resided on the second floor, barely escaped with his life as flames raced through the building.
Hose lines were quickly laid, several from an outside manifold provided by a nearby metal products plant which maintains two 1,000-gpm fire pumps taking suction from a large brook. Chief Geer radioed for outside aid shortly after his arrival at the fire and within minutes apparatus and firemen from North Brunswick, East Brunswick, Highland Park and South River were speeding toward the scene. One pumper from the East Brunswick Independent Fire Company stood by at Milltown Fire Headquarters. The East Brunswick and South River pumpers drafted from a nearby lake and attacked the fire from the rear while the North Brunswick and Highland Park companies joined the Milltown firemen in fighting the fire from the front and sides. Despite the combined efforts of fire fighters from the five departments, the fire raced through the entire structure which was soon a roaring mass of flames. Fortunately the slight wind blew sparks and and embers away from the built-up part of the town.
Water was poured onto the flames from all sides until 7 A.M., when the outside companies were ordered to pick up and return to their stations. One member of the North Brunswick department was overcome and was treated at the St. Peter’s General Hospital in New Brunswick where he was transported by the Milltown Rescue Squad.
Watch lines were maintained at the scene for about one week following the fire, with numerous rekindles occurring. Total loss to building and contents has been estimated at $350,000.
Photo by William C. Peck