According to NHRFR Deputy Chief Nicholas Gazzillo, the rapidly moving fire at 6803 and 6805 Meadowview Avenue is still under investigation by fire officials because one of the two two-family homes destroyed in the fire was vacant.
The fire has not been determined as suspicious, according to Gazzillo, but the cause is still being investigated. According to NHRFR reports, the fire was first reported to the regional headquarters around 3 p.m. Friday and quickly went to a second alarm, and then a third in the matter of 25 minutes. By the time the first engine arrived at the scene, the first structure was already engulfed in flames.
"We had strong winds coming from the west and they were feeding the flames," Gazzillo said. "With the winds, the conditions deteriorated rapidly and we had to wait for the fire to vent a little."
There were apparently six residents who were living at 6803 Meadowview, but all reports told the NHRFR that 6805 Meadowview was vacant.
"We determined with the intensity of the fire that it was unsafe to send our members in to fight the fire," Gazzillo said. "Once we knew that everyone was out and no one was in danger, we decided to aggressively attack it from the perimeter. Someone told us that there were some families that were out of the area, but that was not confirmed. But we knew everyone was out."
Roof collapsed, intense flames
Soon after the firefighters started to fight the fire, they noticed huge cracks in the walls at 6803 Meadowview, and then the roof collapsed on the adjacent building, which prevented the firefighters from getting close to the structures for fear of total collapse.
The location also hampered the NHRFR's approach as well. Like many other streets in the northern section of the township, Meadowview Avenue is very narrow, which prohibited the larger apparatus from making its way close to the scene.
"I think what helped was the back side of the initial fire building had some space, so we were able to get the third alarm companies in there," Gazzillo said. "If we didn't have that accessibility, it would have been a different story."
It would have been more difficult to extinguish, and could have spread more, especially because a lot of the structures along Meadowview are closely aligned and most are all wood framed in construction, like the two homes that did burn.
"We did a good job of containing the fire," Gazzillo said. "With the wind fueling the flames and the location, it was a tough job in a tight area. But I think we were positioned perfectly to fight the fire and kept it to those two structures. We handled it pretty well, even with the tight area and the tight streets. We really didn't have many obstruction problems."
But the flames from the fire were intense and were high above the structures. There was videotape of the fire broadcast on both NBC-TV Channel 4 and News 12 New Jersey from helicopters flying above the scene.
"It was definitely an intense fire," Gazzillo said. "It could have been much worse."
No civilians suffered any injuries because of the fire. Three NHRFR members were treated for injuries. One suffered a knee injury, another a back injury and the third suffered minor burns. They were all treated at Palisade Medical Center and released.
While the fire was brought somewhat under control within three hours, the fire did smolder through the night and it was not officially declared under control until early Saturday morning.
By then, the structures were both destroyed and with fear of total collapse, North Bergen construction code officials determined that the remains of the two homes had to be torn down for safety reasons.
Demolition crews were still at the scene of the fire Wednesday morning bringing down the remains of the two structures.
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or email@example.com