When the fire broke out in a house at the far end of Trembley Court on March 20, officials immediately sent everything they could into the area. This was not because the Bayonne Fire Department lacked the equipment to battle the three story blaze, but because the street was too narrow for needed equipment to get down – one of a handful of Bayonne streets that require increased manpower rather than heavy equipment to fight.
“We know what streets they are,” said Public Safety Director Jason O’Donnell said. “When we get a call from one of these, we issue additional alarms.”
Normally with a fire like the one that gutted the Trembley Court house and did significant damage as it spread to the house next door, the fire department would bring in its aerial platform, which allows firefighters to pour water down into the blaze from above.
“But the street was too narrow and even in those we can get the truck down, we can’t maneuver it when we get there,” O’Donnell said. “This is the reason the fire spread to the second structure. We had to fight the fire the old fashioned way. It is labor intensive.”
Located on a dead-end street off 16th Street, firefighters accessed the fire from the front and side, although smoke billowed over head and completely fogged out nearby Avenue E where some firefighters and other public safety personnel were forced to wear masks.
Up in flames
The fire, O’Donnell said, burned through the roof of the building located at 4 Trembley – threatening to bring down interior completely as flames devoured the internal supports. The flames then moved onto building at 6 Trembley.
Fire hoses were stretched along the center of Trembley from the fire hydrant located near the corner of 16th Street. Firefighters used the hoses to pour water through the front windows and to cast water up on to the roof to dampen the often visible flames. Black smoke curled high into the air above both buildings and darkened the sky for several blocks to the east.
Fire Chief Greg Rogers said that units were dispatched to Trembley Court at 4:03 p.m. and that the fire was declared extinguished slightly more than two hours later at about 6:20 p.m.
“It was a three-alarm fire,” he said. “It was reported as a structural fire. When firefighters arrived at Trembley Court, they were confronted with a narrow dead-end street which they couldn’t get the larger apparatus down. Crews had to work on foot from the front of the buildings, carrying the hoses down the street on their shoulders. They found heavy smoke coming out of the second floor of number 6 and fire on the exterior of the south side that is near the porch and where the buildings joined. The fire was traveling at a pretty good rate.”
The fire spread through the walls in the attack and through the cockloft to the other building. Firefighters got into the building for a while trying to fight it from the inside, but eventually the fire spread to the roof areas of both buildings and Rogers pulled firefighters out again where they battled the blaze from the exterior by hand.
“Once the main body of the fire was extinguished, we were able to re-enter,” Rogers said. “Firefighters used hooks to knock down the ceiling and get to the remaining pockets of fire.”
The fire incorporated mutual aid from Jersey City, and involved 45 firefighters from both departments. With the wind blowing in the direction of Avenue E, visibility was poor at times.
Police Chief Ralph Scianni said none of the residents were hurt, but O’Donnell said one fire battalion chief was sent to Bayonne Medical Center for minor injuries. A terrified Boston terrier that fled the fire-stricken building hid under a neighbor’s trailer for hours and was eventually lured out uninjured.
“When we get a call for one of these, we issue additional alarms.” – Jason O’Donnell
Workers from neighboring Val’s Construction aided firefighters who used the neighboring property to help access other nearby yards in their effort to get better logistics for fighting the blaze.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to deal with situations like this,” O’Donnell said. “But when we get a call from them, we have a plan of action for dealing with it.”
“Firefighters did an outstanding job,” Rogers said.
Most of the displaced victims received aid from the Red Cross, Rogers said. The cause of the fire is being investigated, but the source appears to be a location in the porch area between the two buildings. Flames spread up the side of the buildings quickly, Rogers said, fueled by the vinyl siding and asphalt shingle which is extremely flammable.
This is the second fire in that area in the past few weeks. Firefighters fought a blaze on Avenue E on March 6 that gutted a house and displaced residents. But because the fire was on a larger area, the department was able to deploy its aerial platform, which allowed them to battle the blaze from above, despite high winds.
O’Donnell said that had the platform been able to reach the Trembley Court house, the fire most likely would not have spread to the second house.
“Fires on these streets require us to use a significant number of people,” he said, noting that the fire had to be fought from ground level because of its location. “This is why we bump up the alarm when we get something from one of these streets. We send everything into the area so that we can get a handle on the situation as soon as possible.”
Fire strikes Avenue C building a day later
About 12:30 p.m. on March 21, the Bayonne Fire Department responded to the area of 53rd Street and Avenue C on a report of smoke in the area. Upon arrival, firefighters discovered smoke coming from the Laundry-Town Laundromat at 1100 Avenue C. Fire was found in the ceiling at the rear of the Laundromat which was traveling into the roof of an abutting single story extension. Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire in the ceiling and cut open the rear roof to expose and extinguish the remaining fire. The fire was declared under control at about 1:20 p.m.
The building suffered serious fire damaged and water damage on the first floor, and the remaining units were impacted by smoke. A total of 10 occupants were displaced by the fire, and sought shelter with the Red Cross. The business discontinued operations.
One firefighter suffered from exhaustion and a fire captain sustained a laceration to the face. Both were transported to Bayonne Medical Center for treatment. There were no reported civilian injuries.
The Fire Investigator determined that the fire was the result of an electrical malfunction in the ceiling at the rear of the Laundromat.