Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, January
12, 1931, include: The chief reported on the active members
drills and fires credit. The chief reported there was a fire at Anthony
Felcones on Merline Avenue. Paul Paak reported Mr. Felcone received
$500 from his insurance company. New Years Day committee reported
the day was a success and all bills were paid. The committee was discharged
with a vote of thanks. The delegates to Mercer County Firemens
Association made a good report. The trustees reported the front door
was repaired and that some one wanted to buy the pool table. The chief
reported progress on the new fire engine. Edgar G. Weart spoke about
blowing the siren.
During the meeting held on Monday, February 9, 1931, Assistant
Chief Anthony Pilla reported there were a number of grass fires and
a fire in J.H. Darrahs car. Small damage. Chief James Hindley
reported progress on the new fire engine. The chief reported the fire
map was finished. Anthony Pilla reported a good Mercer County Firemens
Association meeting was held at Hopewell. Public Service showed a good
picture about fire hazards. Under new business it was moved we buy Indian
spray fire extinguishers. Chief James Hindley reported he had ordered
two gas masks at $25 apiece.
During the meeting held on Monday, March 9, 1931, Chief James
Hindley reported progress on the new fire engine. The chief reported
there were five grass fires and a fire at Blairs at Eggerts Crossing.
Small damage. He also reported he had received four Indian extinguishers.
On Saturday, March 28, 1931, members of Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association
assisted Slackwood Fire Co. at the scene of an explosion and fire at
1 Vermont Avenue. The blast occurred while federal agents were in the
process of dismantling an illegal still in the house. Eight people were
seriously injured in the blast (one later died).
The following account of the incident was published in the Trenton Sunday
Times Advertiser on March 29, 1931:
The explosion occurred
at 6:45 oclock while federal men were dismantling the still. The
raid had been made some hours earlier but the work of wrecking the plant,
described as being of 1,000-gallon capacity, was held up pending the
arrival of a wrecking crew. When the government men made their first
visit, they found no one home and broke into the premise. Upon arrival
of the wrecking crew, the work of pouring out alcohol and tearing down
the apparatus was begun. Lawrence Chief of Police Joseph Hopkins, together
with Henry Rossi of 2 Vermont Avenue and Michael Mazzatelli of 5 Vermont
Avenue were watching the work. Stanley Swol, 22, who lived with his
brother-in-law, Charles Coward, was bathing in the adjoining house.
Suddenly there was a blast that detonated the neighborhood and
which could be heard as far distant as Lawrenceville. The houses at
1 and 3 Vermont Avenue, which were built in a pair, collapsed like a
house of cards and a sheet of flames leaped into the air. Shouts of
persons in the neighborhood blended with the cries of the injured. Chief
Hopkins was hurled to the street where he was pinned fast by the roof
of the front porch. Swol, who was blown to the alley adjoining his home,
was held fast by his heavy bathtub, while flames licked at his feet.
Mazzatelli was tossed across the street but received no other hurts
than a shaking up, while Rossi was held fast by heavy timbers. The federal
men were knocked down by the concussion and stunned. Mazzatelli quickly
recovered and dashed to the aid of Chief Hopkins.
Many persons ran to help the other victims and an alarm of fire
was sounded from the box at Brunswick Avenue and Mulberry Street, while
calls were put in for the township apparatus. Thousands of persons were
attracted by the blast and fire and in a few seconds pandemonium reigned.
Engine Co. 9, with quarters at Brunswick Avenue and Pine Street, was
the first firefighting detachment to arrive. Their first act was to
rescue Swol, who was screaming in terror as the flames ate their way
closer to his body. Capt. Samuel Homer then directed his men to search
for other victims. A call was made to McKinley Hospital for an ambulance
and the vehicle transported two of the victims to that institution while
other vehicles were pressed into action for similar service.
Slackwood Fire Co., under the direction of Assistant Chiefs Clifford
and Howard Grant, was the second company on the scene and the members
worked strenuously to free the pinioned victims from the approaching
flames. Many theories were advanced as to the cause of the blast. One
was that alcohol fumes were ignited by a spark caused by a short-circuit
in the electric wiring. Another was that following the raid, the water
in the boiler that operated the still was allowed to become low causing
the apparatus to blow up.
Fire Chief Jeremiah McGill and Assistant Chief George McCrossan,
who were in charge of the Trenton apparatus, say that the theory that
the explosion was caused by a bomb is not at all remote. They declared
that, in their opinion, the blast was far too violent to have been caused
by alcohol fumes. They pointed out that the thick concrete foundation
was ripped asunder, as if by dynamite. Destruction of the building was
so complete, the officials said, that it is doubtful if the exact cause
of the detonation will ever be determined. Firemen worked desperately
in tearing away the debris is search of victims. Chains were lashed
to the splintered and charred timbers and city and volunteer firemen
hauled away on them while their comrades beat down the flames with high-pressure
lines. Their efforts were aided by the presence of one of the Trenton
departments portable floodlight plants. The Trenton apparatus
and the Slackwood company were aided in fighting the flames by other
detachments from Lawrence and Ewing townships.
March 30, 1931
A follow-up report published in the Trenton Evening Times on Monday,
March 30, 1931, included this update: Stanley Swol died yesterday
at McKinley Hospital from burns about the entire body. Swol was taking
a bath when the double house was hurled asunder by the explosion. He
was pinned under the bathtub in the debris and was horrible burned when
the wreckage was swept by fire. In the same article, Mercer County
Prosecutor Charles English said the owner of the still would face a
During the meeting held on Monday, April 13, 1931, Chief James Hindley
reported about the incident on Vermont Avenue. He reported that the
company also responded to five field fires and a fire at Dawleys
on Cherry Tree Lane. Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported that Paul
Paak got hurt on March 14 going to a fire. The LaFrance Engine Co. gave
a demonstration of a new 500-gallon pumper. Chief James Hindley reported
about $2,000 was subscribed for the new engine. Under new business,
Edgar G. Weart and Joseph Pilla were appointed to get fruit and cigarettes
for injured Police Chief Joseph Hopkins from donations from the members.
Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla asked about stenciling the hose, and President
Robert Rose offered to take care of stenciling the hose. Moved that
the House committee buy a gas range. Chief James Hindley asked about
having a carnival. A lively discussion followed. Moved we appoint a
committee to get information about a carnival and report at our next
meeting. Chief Hindley and all active members were appointed. Moved
we have our 17th Anniversary on May 1. Moved that a committee of five
be appointed to act with Chief Hindley to collect for the new fire engine.
If they collect $2,000 the company will buy the engine. 18 yes votes;
11 no votes.
During the meeting held on Monday, May 11, 1931, Assistant Chief
Anthony Pilla reported there were fires at Long Acres and a fence on
Alcazar Avenue near Charles Lownies, and one in Darrahs
woods. Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported that the chiefs
coat, the Indian fire extinguishers and the axes were stenciled. Chief
James Hindley reported that the active members did not want a carnival.
It was moved and seconded that we do not have a carnival this year.
Edgar G. Weart reported that we bought Police Chief Hopkins a bath robe
and a basket of fruit and that the chiefs condition is improving.
Chief James Hindley reported progress on collecting for new fire engine.
Chief Hindley reported that the Sanford Engine Co. will be here Tuesday
at 6:30 p.m. to demonstrate their fire engine. A representative of the
London Insurance Company gave an interesting talk on accident insurance.
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, June
8, 1931, include: Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported a Packard
sedan was on fire at Brick Yard, and there was a fire at Reed garage
on Fernwood Lane. Small damage. Chief James Hindley reported progress
on the new fire engine. Moved that the House committee transfer $100
to the treasurer to pay the painting bills. Moved that the painters
be paid as soon as the bills are okayed by the trustees. Walter Schoeller
reported from Mercer County Firemens Association meeting that
the legislation had passed a law that the township committee should
pay for liability and compensation insurance for the fire company. Moved
that Joseph Pilla be given a vote of thanks for repairing cracks on
the building and other odd jobs. Moved that the township committee and
Mr. Ziegler be given a vote of thanks for the map of the township. Moved
that the House committee get a frame for the map. Moved that a committee
get a copy of the law on liability and compensation insurance and report
During the meeting held on Monday, July 13, 1931, Assistant Chief
Anthony Pilla reported there was a fire at Peter Rossis. Damage
was $2,575. Insurance paid. It was reported that the Sanford agent gave
a good talk about their new engine. Chief James Hindley made a good
report on the new fire engine. It was moved that the Soliciting committee
report to the company at the August meeting what fire engine they want
to buy. The 1931 delegates to the Mercer County Firemens
Association were then elected.
During the meeting held on Monday, August 10, 1931, Chief James
Hindley reported there was a fire on a trolley pole in front of C.A.
Bakers residence. The report of the new fire engine committee
was read and duly received. A rising vote of thanks was given to Joseph
Pilla and Joseph Radlinsky and others for good work done on the quoit
grounds and other work around the firehouse. President Ross gave a good
and interesting talk about his visit to the Sanford engine factory and
the good reports about the Sanford. Moved by C.H. Smith and seconded
by John Hutchins that the trustees buy the new engine. Motion passed.
Paul Paak and John Hutchins gave good talks about raising money. Moved
and seconded that a committee of five be appointed to raise money for
the fire company for the rest of the year.
A contract with the Sanford Motor Truck Co. of Syracuse, N.Y., was signed
by the trustees on Monday, August 10, 1931. The contract, which promised
delivery within 60 days, quoted the apparatus price as $6,000.
September 14, 1931
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, September
14, 1931, include: Chief James Hindley reported there was a fire
at James Eatons house. Small damage. Chief Hindley reported that
the township committee has taken over compensation insurance for this
company and after December 31 they will take over the liability and
property damage insurance on the engines. Moved the trustees have another
door made in the front of firehouse. Moved we have an oyster supper
on October 30.
The following letter, dated Tuesday, October 6, 1931, was received from
the Sanford Motor Truck Co.: We have received your letter of October
4 notifying us to withhold delivery of your apparatus until October
15. The apparatus will be in Lawrence Road on the 15th and the Underwriters
test run on the 16th. We regret it is impossible to arrange for the
Underwriters test on October 17, as that date falls on a Saturday
and the Underwriters will not run any tests on Saturday. It is necessary
for our engineer to spend three days giving instructions when he makes
delivery, therefore he will be in Lawrence Road October 15-17 to give
instructions and run the test on the 16th.
During the meeting held on Tuesday, October 13, 1931, The chief
reported no fires this month. The new fire engine committee reported
$2,500 was on hand and ready to be turned over to pay for the new engine.
The underwriters will be here on Friday, October 16, 1931, to test our
new engine. Moved that we allow the committee $30 for refreshments when
we christen our new engine Friday night. Spaghetti supper committee
reported $59.05 made to date. Mr. Maxam was asked to explain accident
insurance for our members. Moved that a committee of three be appointed
to take care of the insurance and make arrangements for payment.
On Friday, October 16, 1931, James Balaam, Walter Schoeller and Godfrey
Slover accepted delivery of the Sanford engine. The apparatus, bearing
the Sanford identification number 518 R12, was painted red and was powered
by a six cylinder 90 brake horse power engine and a 160-inch wheelbase.
On October 25, 1931, the Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser published a
photograph of the new Sanford engine, along with this article about
the apparatus: Tests of a new motor-driven pumper purchased by
the Lawrence Road Volunteer Fire Co. have been completed with a report
obtained from the National Board of Underwriters of its approval. The
apparatus, costing $6,000, is the first of its type located in Mercer
County, being adapted to hard pulling in addition to having several
pumping improvements. Alterations are in progress at the firehouse to
provide an adequate doorway for the prompt departure of the equipment
when calls are received. The company previously possessed only a motor-driven
chemical truck. The new machine was purchased by popular subscription
in Fire District 2 of Lawrence Township. A special committee conducted
the solicitation, consisting of Chief James Hindley, Assistant Chiefs
Anthony Pilla and Leo Balaam, with Spencer Cornell, Joseph Pilla, Anthony
Colabiti, and Walter Schoeller. The apparatus is known as a Sanford
triple combination pumper. It carries a 150-gallon booster tank containing
an emergency water supply. The pump itself is capable of pumping 500
gallons per minute at 120 pounds pressure per square inch. In
addition, the vehicle is equipped with 1,000 feet of the standard 2.5-inch
hose, as well as two extension ladders. Trustees in charge of the transaction
were James Balaam, Godfrey Slover, and Walter Schoeller.
During the next meeting, which is dated in the minutes as having occurred
on Thursday, November 19, 1931, Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported
the company responded to a chimney fire at Mrs. Daubias on October
30; a grass fire at Stephen Henczels on November 3; and a grass
fire at Dunn Field on November 7. Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla
reported that the Underwriters test on October 16 was okay and members
of other fire companies were present. Paul Paak reported progress on
the window locks. Spaghetti supper reported $58.95 turned over to the
Fire Engine committee. Moved same be received and the committee given
a rising vote of thanks. James Balaam reported we have the group insurance
and that we have to make arrangements for payment. Assistant Chief Pilla
reported a good meeting at the Mercer County Firemens Association
meeting and that Chief Pierson from Hightstown asked every company in
Mercer County to donate $2 for members at Boonton. Moved and seconded
we donate $2 to Boonton. Vice President Charles H. Smith made a suggestion
to open our charter and have a membership drive. Moved that the opening
of our charter be considered at our January 1932 meeting. Moved that
we have a dinner party around Thanksgiving. Nominations for officers
1932 were then held.
During the next meeting, which is dated in the minutes as having occurred
on Tuesday, December 15, 1931, Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported
that the company responded to a fires on December 8 near Oscar Bones
home and a grass fire at Martha Murphys. No damage. On December
14, the company was called to Thomas Lynckys home but there was
no fire. There was discussion about the fire hazard at Oscar Bones
at Eggerts Crossing. Chief James Hindley said he would take care of
it. Chief Hindley gave a lengthy report on active members. Officers
for 1932 were then elected.
1932, members of the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association responded to
23 fires (according to the report given by Chief James Hindley at the
first company meeting of 1933).
During the meeting held on Monday, January 13, 1932, Chief James
Hindley reported the engine was okay. Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla
reported three grass fires. James Balaam made a New Years report.
Moved the committee on New Years be given a rising vote of thanks.
Moved we open our charter for three months and reduce the initiation
fee to $2. Moved we have the doors painted and have handles put on the
doors. Moved that the secretary write to the baker at the corner of
Heil and Brunswick avenues and thank him for bread and etc. given to
the poor people around Christmas.
The following news brief was published in the Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser
on January 24, 1932: Pancakes will be served at a supper to be
held by the Lawrence Road Fire Co. for its members, their wives, and
the Ladies Auxiliary tomorrow night in the firehouse. Serving will start
at 6 p.m. A program of entertainment will be followed by dancing. The
committee in charge consists of Edgar G. Weart, William R. Sharp, W.G.
Slover and Henry Dettman.
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, February
8, 1932, include: Chief James Hindley reported a fire above Lawrenceville
on Pennington Road and that our company did good work. Anthony Pilla
reported a grass fire next to John Hutchins and that we pumped
out the cellar at the Eldridge old house. Godfrey Slover reported he
loaned the hall to the Girl Scouts last Friday night. The pancake supper
was a great success.
During the meeting held on Monday, March 14, 1932, Anthony Pilla
reported a fire at Underwood at Eggerts Crossing and two grass fires.
He and Robert Reikosky filled four extinguishers at Eldridge Park School.
A new head gasket was put on engine. Moved a rising vote of thanks be
given to Godfrey Slover for cleaning the ballot box and contents. Moved
that Stephen Ragolia be given a rising vote of thanks for the frame
he made to keep engine blue prints. Moved we loan our hall to James
Eaton for a musical for the unemployed of Lawrence Township.
During the meeting held on Monday, April 11, 1932, Assistant Chief
Anthony Pilla reported a grass fire, a car on fire at the Albano Inn,
and a grass fire at Colonial Lake Lands. President Robert Ross gave
a good talk about using our new engine to pump out cellars. It was moved
our new engine be used for fire work only. Recommended by trustees and
House committee that our janitor service be discontinued in the interests
of economy to take effect April 30, 1932. It was further recommended
that the firehouse be opened every evening during the summer months,
except Sunday, and that two members of the company be appointed by the
president to serve a term of one week to take care of the games and
refreshments. Recommendation was adopted. Moved that members volunteer
service and at least one man be present each night and have privilege
to close the firehouse at 12 oclock. Passed. The young people
will hold a dance Wednesday night and, if successful, every other Wednesday
night. Moved that a committee see Public Service about having the siren
attached to the Pillas home.
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, May
9, 1932, include: Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported a grass
fire at Ludwig. The Siren committee asked to have a letter written to
Public Service about having the siren attached to the Pillas home.
Chief James Hindley spoke about a board for fire engine donation names.
Moved we give Peter DiAntonio a rising vote of thanks for the use of
truck and men to haul dirt for the quoit grounds.
During the meeting held on Monday, May 13, 1932, include: Chief
James Hindley reported there was a chicken house fire at S. DePaolos
and about 350 little chickens were lost. Anthony Pilla gave a good report
on the Mercer County Firemens Association meeting and also reported
about fire drill in Bucks County. Chief Hindley reported that Mr. Oldeck
and Mr. Howard from the Sanford Co. checked our engine and reported
everything was okay. Paul Paak reported for the Memorial committee that
flags were placed on all graves excepting Al Pastor and Joseph Murray.
Moved we have an American flag in our firehouse and we salute the flag
when we open our meetings.
During the meeting held on Monday, July 11, 1932, Chief James
Hindley reported there was a fire on June 26 at Meyer Dantzigs.
About $50,000 damage, partially covered by insurance. James Balaam reported
the water was connected to the curb. Peter DiAntonio promised pipe for
our water connections. Letter from Schedule Rating Co. that insurance
rates were reduced from June 1, 1932. Letter from the State Firemens
Association about death rates being reduced to $300 was read and filed.
During the meeting held on Monday, August 8, 1932, Assistant Chief
Anthony Pilla reported a grass fire in back of Staces home. Anthony
Pilla reported that wires were dropped so we could run the siren wires
over to Pillas. President Robert Ross thanked all members for
work in installing water. Paul Paak offered to paint the ladies
room. Moved the wiring for the clock be left to the trustees. Moved
that we run a card party to raise money so we can entertain the Mercer
County Firemens Association meeting.
On the morning of Friday, September 2, 1932, a violent thunderstorm
passed through the region. In that nights edition of the Trenton
Evening Times it was reported that the Slackwood and Lawrence
Road fire companies were called out to the Muelhausen Cooperage on New
York Avenue early today to extinguish a fire in the office. A short
circuit, the result of a transformer being hit by lightening, was to
blame. Damage was slight.
On Sunday, September 18, 1932, the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association
responded mutual aid to a house fire in Ewing.
following account of the fire was published in the Trenton Evening Times
on Monday, September 19, 1932: Trapped by dense smoke, four children
were seriously endangered last night at 1434 Heath Avenue, off Princeton
Avenue, until firemen came to the rescue. A boarder, Andrew Proboba,
45, sustained burns about the arms and hands and required treatment
at McKinley Hospital. He had been asleep in the attic when the blaze
started mysteriously in a closet on the second floor.
George Malone, a driver attached to Trenton Truck Co. 3, carried three
of the children to safety. A fourth child was standing bewildered at
the head of a stairway when found by Lt. Charles Jenkins and assisted
to the open air. The children were left in the care of the boarder while
their mothers attended a social at St. Joachims hall. The flames
ruined the house, while adjoining properties suffered to some extent
from water. Furniture in the homes at 1432 and 1436 Heath Avenue was
covered with tarpaulins to reduce the damage. Volunteer companies from
Prospect Heights, Slackwood, Lawrence Road and Pennington Road responded.
During the meeting held on Monday, November 14, 1932, Chief James
Hindley reported a fires at: the Anthony Colivetos home; Simon
Bonetobias hay stack; C. Lee Boyles brakes on auto on fire;
and grass fire at Slackwood. Moved that secretary write to commissioner
and ask for help in us getting water at cost price. President Ross reported
there was a good Mercer County Firemens Association meeting in
our firehouse. Trustee James Balaam reported half the heater was bricked
and now burning hard coal. Moved we have a pancake supper on November
22. Moved that a committee be appointed to meet with the township committee
in reference to having the city water run through the Eggerts Crossing
Road to the Battery. Moved that the pool table be left to the trustees
to sell. It was reported that about $127.66 was made on the recent
oyster supper. Nominations were held for the 1933 officers.
During the meeting held on Monday, December 12, 1932, Chief James
Hindley reported there were two field fires at Slackwood, and the planks
were finished. Moved that the chief be given power to buy flashlights
and tire chains for the new truck. Chief James Hindley reported progress
with the water lines to Battery B. Anthony Pilla reported a good Mercer
County Firemens Association meeting and moved and seconded we
send $2 to Alonzo Pierson for the Boonton home. Moved and seconded we
give Chief Hindley and his assistants a rising vote of thanks for their
work in 1932. Chairman Cornell reported the pancake supper was a great
success. Moved that a committee be appointed to take care of pancake
supper on January 17, 1933. Elections of officers were then held.
During the first meeting of 1933, held on Monday, January 9, Chief
James Hindley reported that there were 23 fires in 1932. Assistant Chief
Anthony Pilla reported that Meyers coal truck was on fire at Dr.
Russells. He gave a good report on active members. W. Godfrey
Slover gave a very good yearly report of the House Committee. He received
a vote of thanks. Moved that the secretary write to the township committee
asking about liability and property damage insurance for our engines.
H. Dettman reported a good time on New Years Day and that same
was a success and James Balaam reported all bills paid. The report was
received and a rising vote of thanks given to the butcher. Moved a rising
vote of thanks be given Stephen Ragolia for making frames. Walter Schoeller
was appointed press agent. John OHara reported there will be a
card party for the benefit of the Boy Scouts to be held Friday night
at the 112th Field Artillery and he asked the members to attend.
An elderly township man was killed when his home caught fire on the
morning of Sunday, March 5, 1933. The following account was published
in the Trenton Evening Times on Monday, March 6, 1933: Charles
Harris, 75, burned to death yesterday when his home at Eggerts Crossing,
Lawrence Township, was destroyed by fire. Another occupant, Arthur Brogdan,
22, escaped by leaping from a second-story window. The fire is believed
to have been caused by an overheated stove. Brogdan was awakened in
his room at 8:30 a.m. by dense clouds of smoke. He leaped from a window
and then attempted to enter the blazing dwelling by a rear door in an
effort to save Harris. His attempt was futile, the flames driving him
back. The Lawrence Road, Lawrenceville and Slackwood fire companies
responded but by the time they arrived the frame dwelling was doomed.
It was owned by Mrs. Lillian Derry of Eggerts Crossing, who estimated
the loss at $3,000. The body of Harris was found by firemen on the twisted
fragments of his bed. He was burned beyond recognition. The corpse was
removed to the morgue
Details of the fatal blaze were recorded in the minutes of the company
meeting held on Monday, March 13, 1933. Other items of interest recorded
in the minutes on that date were: Chief James Hindley reported
two grass fires. The chief reported the fire hazard at Oscar Bones
was reported to Fire Marshal David J. Newell. Anthony Pilla gave a report
of the Mercer County Firemens Association meeting held at Groveville.
The House committee reported it was working on the ping-pong table.
Joseph Pilla reported that he had planted some hedges in front of the
firehouse and would like to have some shrubbery. Joseph Pilla reported
that the front door was broken. Moved we have a committee to see about
a minstrel show. A letter from John Hofner, clerk of Lawrence Township,
about liability insurance was read and filed.May 8, 1933:
from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, May 8, 1933,
include: Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported two grass fires.
Chief James Hindley reported he bought six nozzles for the Indian pumps.
Under new business, Anthony Pilla asked members to help grade around
A raging fire that required extensive mutual aid broke out in Ewing
Township early on the morning of Tuesday, June 6, 1933. The Lawrence
Volunteer Fire Association was among the many companies that responded
Trenton Evening Times published the following account of the blaze on
the front page of that nights edition: Twisting sheets into
the form of a rope, the family of Luigi Garzio reached safety from bedrooms
on the second floor of their home on Grand Avenue, West Trenton, shortly
before 4 a.m. The residence burned to the ground because firemen lacked
an adequate water supply. The fire apparently started in a stairway
leading from the kitchen to the floor above. Chemicals used by the Pennington
Road Fire Co. failed to check the blaze as other companies were being
dogs barking outside the house at 3:40 a.m. first aroused the
family. The pet apparently detected the blaze or smoke before the Garzio
family was aware of their peril. By that time, the entire first floor
was in flames. Escape by the stairway was out of the question. The height
of the second-floor windows from the ground made a leap seem foolhardy.
Hastily, the sheets were yanked from the beds. Working frantically the
older members of the family tied the corners of the bedding together
with stout knots. One end was secured tightly to a bed and the other
thrown out the window. It reached practically to the ground. Recklessly
ignoring their danger if their hands slipped, one member of the family
after another clambered down the makeshift ladder. Neighbors had rushed
to the scene but there was little they could do to assist. Inside the
house, an inferno was raging and the saving of the furnishings was out
of the question. Seven of the Garzio children were rescued by being
brought down the makeshift ladder.
2.5-story house was situated at the intersection of Grand and Ewing
avenues, the main corner of West Trenton. Hose lines were extended from
the house to the creek on Airport Road, near the State Hospital farm.
Eight fire companies cooperated in the task, with Ewing Township police
also assisting in building a dam. However, 45 minutes elapsed while
the work was in progress. Groups at the scene included Pennington Road,
Prospect Heights, Lawrence Road, Slackwood, Pennington, Yardley, Morrisville,
and Engine 8 of the Trenton Fire Department. A call was also received
by the White Horse Fire Co. but it was cancelled because of the length
of time that would elapse for the run to the scene. Officer Clarence
Morris, who was one of the first to reach the scene, said the flames
were just spreading fanwise from the kitchen when he arrived but got
beyond control within a few minutes. Officers Charles Whitehead and
Howard Morris and Chief Forst also were at the scene. Neighbors prepared
coffee for the firemen. The loss has been estimated at $7,000, with
insurance covering $2,000 on the house and $2,000 on the furnishings.
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, June
12, 1933, include: George Arrowsmith reported that the committee
placed flags on the graves of our departed members. The chief reported
the wires are fished over to the Pilla home. Moved that Vice President
Charles Smith see J. Russell Brown about connecting the siren. Members
were nominated and elected to the Mercer County Firemens Association.
The early hours of Thursday, June 29, 1933, proved to be very busy for
members of the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association as two alarms, including
a fatal traffic accident, occurred before dawn. The first alarm involved
a bus fire. The Trenton Evening Times published this account of the
blaze in that nights edition: Flames caused by a short-circuit
routed 16 passengers on a Philadelphia-bound motor bus early this morning
on the Lawrenceville Road, directly in front of the Lawrence Road Fire
Co. The blaze spread rapidly. Damage to the bus, which was coming from
New York, was estimated at $500. Another machine brought the passengers
to Trenton. Under command of Assistant Chief Pilla, members of the Lawrence
Road Fire Co. extinguished the fire, which was reported about 12:30
short time later, Lawrence Road firefighters responded to a horrible
head-on collision involving two trucks on Brunswick Pike. Three men
suffered fatal injuries when the trucks burst into flames. The Trenton
Evening Times published the following details of the crash on the front
page of the June 29, 1933, edition:
The two heavy trucks,
each with a trailer, crashed about 1 a.m. today on the Brunswick Pike
just beyond the canal bridge in Lawrence Township. Frank Melchiore of
Waterbury, Conn., told Lawrence Township police he was driving in his
proper lane on the highway when the southbound truck, operated by Samuel
Scheff, 38, of New York City, suddenly swerved across the road and into
the northbound lane. Wheels of Scheffs truck locked with the wheels
of Melchiores trailer, the impact causing a gas line to break.
Flames suddenly spurted from the wreckage. Scheff and his passenger,
Giovanne Montella, 29, of Brooklyn, were trapped in the cab of their
blazing truck. Melchiores unidentified passenger likewise was
a prey to the flames. Passing motorists quickly extricated the three
identified men, but fire drove them away as they attempted to rescue
the fourth. Confusion prevailed as the rescue work proceeded. Fire alarms
were sounded, bringing out the Slackwood, Lawrenceville, and Lawrence
Road companies. Patrolmen Ball, Akroyd and Stonicker of the township
police force and the Penns Neck state police rushed to the scene. Firemen
battled the flames for four hours, but when the blaze finally died out
only the charred chassis of each vehicle was left. Scheffs truck
contained a cargo of raw worsted and silk, while Melchiores vehicle
was loaded with general merchandise. Scheff and the unidentified
man (possibly a hitch-hiker) died of burns that day, while Montella
died of his injuries at McKinley Hospital on July 2, 1933. It is unclear
if Melchiore, who suffered a skull fracture in the crash, survived or
July 10, 1933
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, July
10, 1933, include: A letter from Pennington Road Fire Co. thanking
us for our work at the fire in West Trenton was read and ordered filed.
It was reported that the siren is connected with the Pilla house. Moved
that a committee of two inquire the cost of lumber for the quoit grounds
and report at the next meeting. Moved that President Robert Ross inquire
about the cost of a garage and report next meeting. Moved that we have
an outing in August.
Another fatal accident occurred on Brunswick Pike early on the morning
of Tuesday, July 11, 1933, and Slackwood and Lawrence Road firefighters
responded. The following narrative appeared in that nights edition
of the Trenton Evening Times: One man is dead as the result of
a collision, explosion and fire involving two trucks on the Brunswick
Pike at Slackwood at 4:40 a.m. today. Two others miraculously escaped
with slight scratches. The man killed was John Patterson, 23, of Penns
Manor, Pa. Patterson was within five miles of his home. He was returning
from New York, where he had delivered a truckload of beans for the King
Farms Co. The other truck, carrying a cargo of paper, was operated by
R.C. Tull, 39, of Chester. He and a helper, Barney Duke Jr., 30, were
severely jolted by the sickening impact but extricated themselves almost
unharmed. In the crash, the Patterson vehicle hit the gas tank on the
other truck and exploded. Both vehicles were in flames almost immediately
and firemen as well as police and scores of nearby residents hurried
to the scene. Patterson died within a half-hour of his arrival at McKinley
Hospital, where he was taken by a passing truck driver. His injuries
consisted of a fracture of the skull, a compound fracture of his left
arm, burns about one hand and cuts and abrasions. Tull told police who
investigated that he observed Pattersons truck swerve to the left
side of the road when the vehicles were about 60 feet apart and traveling
in the opposite directions. He knew that a collision was imminent, but
he was powerless to avert it. He swung aside as best he could but it
was too late. The Patterson truck ploughed against the side of the other
truck with a wrenching of metal and wood. The explosion followed almost
instantly. Coroner Carl Whitney was called to the hospital after Pattersons
death. Meanwhile officers of the township police force took charge of
the investigation and the handling of traffic. The Slackwood and Lawrence
Road fire companies answered the alarm and extinguished the blaze.
Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association members again responded mutual aid
to Ewing on the evening of Saturday, July 22, 1933. The following account
of the blaze was published on the front page of the Trenton Sunday Times
Advertiser on July 23, 1933: Two persons, a 69-year-old farmer
and a gypsy baby were rescued late last night when a spectacular blaze
destroyed a barn on the old Heath farm in Prospect Heights. Andrew Johnson,
69, who occupies the premises, was carried to safety by John Brown,
49, of Spruce Street. Fumes from gasoline were ignited by a lantern
while Johnson was siphoning the fluid from the gas tank of his auto
to use in a motor-driven water pump. Brown was approaching Johnsons
house about 11 p.m. when flames suddenly leaped out the barn door. He
ran the short distance. There he discovered Johnson momentarily befuddled
by the sudden flareup and attempting to extinguish flames on his trousers.
Brown dragged him from the barn and beat out the flaming clothing. Johnson
was burned about the right leg, while his rescuer, Brown, also suffered
burns about the hands. The gypsy baby was momentarily trapped in a tent
that was set afire by sparks. A tribe of gypsies has been camping at
the farm for several months. The father carried the child to safety
and then beat out the flames with his hands. The youngster was unharmed
but the rescuer was burned slightly. Firemen treated all the victims
at the scene. The location of the barn on a ridge made the fire visible
from a considerable distance in all directions. Motorists glutted the
roads with their cars. One vehicle went into a ditch along the lane
leading to the farmhouse. Police and firemen later extricated it. Firemen
from five companies responded to a general alarm. The loss was estimated
at $2,000. Included was Johnsons auto, which he valued at $500,
and a tractor of about the same worth.
During the meeting held on Monday, September 11, 1933, Chief James
Hindley reported no fires. Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla reported that
the old fire alarm had been removed from Clark Reeds and was now
at the firehouse. James Balaam reported on the delinquent members and
recommended that the financial secretary send a letter, drafted by committee,
to the delinquent members. Assistant Chief Anthony Pilla gave a good
report of the Mercer County Firemens Association meeting held
at Dutch Neck. Joseph Pilla gave a report on the quoit building. Moved
a committee be appointed for our annual oyster supper. Assistant Chief
Anthony Pilla made a suggestion that we have some refreshments at our
next meeting. Moved we have a lunch at each meeting and our janitors
act as a committee on same.
Highlights from the minutes of the company meeting held on Monday, October
9, 1933, include: Chief James Hindley reported there was a chimney
fire at John Mulchays residence. Chief Hindley gave a good report
on the duties of active members. Progress was reported on the oyster
supper. Under new business, it was moved that a committee be appointed
to procure a suitable gift for past-President Stephen Ziegler, same
not to exceed $20.
Details of a fire inspection made by the members of the Lawrence Volunteer
Fire Association of the schools in the district are recorded in the
minutes of the meeting held on Monday, November 13, 1933: Assistant
Chief Anthony Pilla reported they inspected the extinguishers at the
schools and found the hoses of two to be in bad condition. Moved that
the secretary notify the School Board that two extinguishers were broken.
Other highlights from the meeting include: Chief James Hindley
reported there was a truck fire on Brunswick Pike. Moved that we hold
a fire demonstration when the Ladies Auxiliary of the Mercer County
Firemens Association meets here. James Balaam reported the committee
gave past-President Stephen Ziegler a traveling bag and bath robe. A
letter from past-president Stephen Ziegler was read and filed. Moved
that the resolution for past-President Stephen Ziegler be spread upon
the minutes. That resolution read:
the undersigned committee, appointed by the president and representing
the entire membership of Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association, take great
pleasure in presenting to you, on behalf of the company, this small
token of the esteem and respect in which we hold you, with the hope
that you will accept it in the same generous spirit that it is given,
and also with the hope that you clearly understand that it is a mere
appreciation and to be considered in no sense payment for all the valuable
service you have rendered this community, not only as a member of our
company but also as a private citizen and public servant. We give you
full credit for originating the idea of a fire company in this neighborhood.
You were responsible more than any other presiding officer for 14 years;
you had more to do with the erection of the original building than anyone;
and no one can honestly claim more credit for the present fine home
of our company than yourself. Your counsel and wisdom and energy were
evident when holding carnivals, harvest homes and festivals. As further
evidence of our appreciation of your efforts to the fire company, you
were unanimously voted a life member at a special meeting held Tuesday,
October 10, 1933. Signed, James Balaam, Charles H. Smith, W. Godfrey
Slover, William R. Sharp, and Spencer H. Cornell.
Highlights from the minutes of the final company meeting of 1933, held
on an unclear date in December, include: Chief James Hindley reported
that the battery in the Sanford engine was no good. He also reported
on two truck fires and three grass fires. The chief made a report on
the fire demonstration held for the ladies auxiliary. Moved that the
secretary write to past-President Stephen Ziegler and wish him a Merry
Christmas. Moved we rent the club room to the Italian American Club
for $15 in advance for the last Sunday of every month and if they want
the hall they pay the regular fee. Elections of officers for the
following year were then held.