Thursday, January 7, 1999, the Trenton Times published an article about
Flemings accomplishment. The article, written by Times staff writer
Ryan Davis, read:
John Fleming it wasnt about black or white. He only saw red trucks.
As a kid, the new chief of Lawrence Road Fire Co. walked past the fire
station every day on the way to school. He always looked at the trucks.
One day in 1978, the 15-year-old decided to pick up an application.
Technically, he had to be 16 to join the company, but Fleming didnt
give his age, and no one noticed. Twenty-one years later, on Jan. 1,
Fleming, now 36, became the first black to be named chief of a fire
company in Mercer County. He is one of fewer than 25 black volunteer
fire chiefs in the nation, according to the International Association
of Fire Chiefs in Fairfax, Va. Its special and it should
be celebrated, said Gary Briese, president of the IAFC. People
close to Fleming arent celebrating. They were sure this was coming.
Fleming was a deputy chief for six years and an assistant chief for
three years before that.*
hearing that Fleming, who is also a full-time Trenton firefighter assigned
to Engine 7, is Mercers first black volunteer chief, his co-workers
generally responded, Yeah, I guess he is. If someone else
had become the first black chief, Fleming might have celebrated. But,
he said, Its not a big deal. Its just me. Minority
interest in firefighting has grown in recent years, according to the
IAFC, but the volunteer growth has lagged. Volunteer companies fight
the stigma of being traditionally white social clubs. Fleming prides
himself on the togetherness of his 35- to 40-person company, the only
one in Lawrence Township with black members. Volunteers attend football
games, baseball games and other events together. Lawrence Road provides
a more relaxed atmosphere than the Trenton department, where he is a
10-year veteran. If I leave the firehouse in Trenton at 7 a.m.,
Im here at 7:15 a.m. having coffee, Fleming said.
anyone close to Fleming about his most striking characteristic and they
will give several different answers his leadership, his listening
ability. No one will mention his race. Some might mention his right
hand, which is darker than the rest of his skin because of burns. It
looks like he wears a permanent glove. In 1988, Fleming was trying to
leave a house fire when winds shifted and the building went up in flames,
badly burning his hand. He looks at his hand every once in a while,
said Capt. Henry Gliottone of the Trenton Fire Department. Every
time I go to a fire, Fleming said, Im thinking about
it. The incident made Fleming want to learn more about fire science.
breaks between 40-hour paid weeks in Trenton and 30-hour volunteer weeks
in the suburbs, Fleming reads books about firefighting and leadership.
He said he has read 20 books in the past two months. Fleming separates
his two jobs. At one he has a desk and an office; at the other he finds
himself at the bottom of the ladder. But he carries his experiences
between the two jobs. Experience is one of his biggest assets, according
to Lawrence Road President Jim Yates, who was a deputy chief when Fleming
started. Flemings plans for his first year include more rescue
training and assembling a new red truck. Were proud about
the fact that Johns chief, said Yates, who used to stand
outside the station with a Dalmatian when Fleming was walking to school,
not because hes black, but because hes John.
6:07 p.m. Lawrenceville Deputy Chief Don Huber arrived on location and
reported smoke showing from the second floor on Side A of the two-story,
single-family dwelling. Engine 22, driven by Ff. Jeff Sawasky, also
arrived at 6:07 p.m. and took up position at the front of the fire building.
Firefighters Steve Amiott, Marty Burch and Tim Kasony Jr., under the
direction of Assistant Chief James Pidcock, stretched a 1.75-inch handline
to attack the fire located in the second-floor front bedroom.
22, driven by Ff. Charles Commini, arrived seconds later. Rescue 22
backed down and laid 400 feet of 4-inch supply hose to the hydrant at
the corner of Laurelwood Drive and Wood Lane Road. Telesquirt 23 and
Engine 23-3 responded at 6:10 p.m. and arrived at 6:11 p.m. and 6:12
p.m., respectively. Engine 24 arrived at 6:15 p.m.
the hoseteam reached the top of the stairs and opened the bedroom door
to attack the fire, Capt. Wayne Hannon, Ff. Michael Byrd and Junior
Ff. Shaun Dlabik took out the front windows for ventilation. Their coordinated
efforts resulted in the bulk of the fire being knocked down by 6:13
p.m. Meanwhile, at the front of the dwelling Rescue Capt. Chris Longo
and Ffs. James Yates, Chris Pangaldi, Michael Ratcliffe, and Rob Kusek
raised a 35-foot ladder to check for any spread of fire along the roof
Ladder Tower 23 signed on radio at 6:15 p.m. and arrived two minutes later. The bedroom and its contents were gutted but there was no extension of fire to other rooms or into the attic. Lawrence Road Ff. Tim Kasony Jr. rescued a cat from a room next to the bedroom where the fire originated. Lawrenceville Chief Bob Brackett declared the fire completely out at 6:39 p.m. Candles left burning atop a dresser were blamed for starting the fire. Lawrence Road firefighters were back in quarters by 7:24 p.m.
22 left the firehouse at 3:41 a.m. with a crew of seven firefighters.
Rescue 22 arrived on the scene two minutes later at 3:43 a.m. and found
heavy smoke issuing from the second floor of the dwelling. Chief John
Fleming arrived at 3:44 a.m. and assumed fireground command. He reported
that flames were visible through a second-floor window on Side A.
22 arrived on the scene at 3:44 a.m., followed one minute later by Engine
22-1. Thus, Lawrence Road had all three of its engines and about 25
volunteer firefighters on scene within six minutes of being dispatched.
Slackwood responded with more than a dozen firefighters on Snorkel 21
and Engine 21, which arrived at 3:47 a.m. and 3:49 a.m., respectively.
soon as they arrived, firefighters were advised by police officers that
all four residents of 124 Oaklyn Terrace had safely escaped the burning
house. Rescue 22s crew stretched a 1.75-inch handline into the
dwelling and made their way up the stairs to the second floor where
they encountered heavy smoke and moderate heat. Meanwhile, Engine 22s
crew laid 400 feet of 5-inch hose to supply water from a hydrant at
the corner of Oaklyn Terrace and Birchwood Knoll. Additional Lawrence
Road and Slackwood personnel ventilated the structure.
a result of the quick response and teamwork of the Lawrence Road and
Slackwood fire companies, the blaze was contained to the second-floor
bedroom where it started. Although the bedroom was gutted, the remainder
of the house sustained only smoke and water damage. Fleming declared
the fire under control at 3:59 a.m. Lawrence Road crews cleared the
scene by 5:40 a.m.
An investigation by Mercer County Fire Marshal George Lenhardt and township fire inspectors determined that a malfunctioning electrical space heater started the fire. Lawrence Road Fire Co. provided the residents of 124 Oaklyn Terrace with a new smoke detector as none of their old smoke detectors had worked. An ambulance crew from the Lawrence First Aid Squad stood by at the scene but no injuries were reported. Pennington Road Engine 32-1 and West Trenton Ladder Tower 33 stood by at Station 22, while Telesquirt 23 stood by at Station 21 during the incident.
Rescue 22s crew deployed their Holmatro tools on the drivers side of the vehicle and Rescue 129s crew deployed their Hurst tools on the passengers side. Engine 23s crew stretched a 1.75-inch handline from Rescue 22. Rescue 22s crew removed the drivers side door. By working together, the two rescue crews then cut the A and B posts and removed the roof. The driver was extricated at 2:54 p.m. The injured man was then taken to the nearby Squibb property, where a medivac landing zone was set up by Telesquirt 23. The 47-year-old Monmouth County man was then flown to the Capital Health System at Fuld hospital in Trenton, where he was admitted to the intensive care ward in stable condition. Rescue 22 was back in quarters at 3:19 p.m.
22, which signed on radio at 1:33 p.m., meanwhile responded to Central
Park on Eggerts Crossing Road and its crew made its way through the
woods with Brush 23 to attack the fire from the opposite side. Chainsaws
were used to cut apart a few trees that were burning internally. Station
22 firefighters were back in quarters by 2:22 p.m. During the incident,
an engine from Slackwood Fire Co. stood by at Station 22, while an engine
from Pennington Road Fire Co. covered Station 23.
The following morning, Wednesday, March 31, 1999, at 11:37 a.m. Station 22 personnel were dispatched to a fire in the woods between Lawrence Middle School and Lawrence High School. Engine 22-1 responded at 11:40 a.m. and arrived to find heavy smoke in the area. Engine 22-1 accessed the scene via a path at the dead end of Fieldboro Drive from Gainsboro Road. A pair of booster lines were stretched to attack the flames, which involved several trees and undergrowth. Shovels, a chainsaw and a water extinguisher were also utilized. Ultimately, the fire was contained to an area approximately 100-by-150 feet in size. A pack of burned matches was found nearby but the cause of the fire was undetermined. Engine 22-1 was back in service at Station 22 by 1:05 p.m.
was 1:56 p.m. when Lawrence Control dispatched Station 21 and Station
22 to the blaze in the shopping center on Brunswick Pike. At the time
the assignment was sent out, several Lawrence Road members were in the
firehouse following the funeral for Francis Quill, father of Past Chief
Patrick Quill. The first firefighter to arrive was Slackwood Assistant
Chief Ron Dziminski at 1:58 p.m. He reported that heavy smoke was visible
from the roof area of the one-story structure. At that time, bank employees
were outside, reportedly after having locked all the money up inside
the vault before fleeing.
21-1, which arrived at 1:59 p.m., took a position along Side A and its
crew stretched a 1.75-inch handline into the banks interior. Engine
22 arrived at 2 p.m. and took a position on the Side A/B corner and
its crew threw a ground ladder and hauled a 1.75-inch handline up to
the roof. Rescue 22 also arrived at 2 p.m. and its manpower was deployed
to assist the other two engine crews.
2:01 p.m. Engine 22-1 arrived and laid 500 feet of 5-inch supply line
through the parking lot to a hydrant located near the Manhattan Bagel
shop. Snorkel 21 arrived at 2:04 p.m. and Engine 21 arrived at 2:05
p.m. and their manpower utilized as support. Firefighters learned that
men from a security system company accidentally started the fire with
an acetylene torch they were using to work on a night deposit box located
on the front wall of the bank. Sparks from the torch apparently ignited
insulation in the wall around the deposit box.
extended into the adjacent utility room, where the fire spread to the
buildings natural gas meter. Fueled by the gas, flames quickly
engulfed the utility room and burned into the roof. As the interior
crew made its attack on the fire in the utility room, Station 22 firefighters
on the roof used handtools and a chainsaw to remove an access hatch
and cut open the surrounding area. The fire was burning along the insulation
between the top layer of tar and the corrugated metal roof, but firefighters
were able to open up the area ahead of the flames and halt the fires
The situation was under control in approximately 20 minutes. Firefighting operations were directed by Slackwood Chief Ken Johnson. The utility room was gutted and the roof sustained significant damage. The banks restrooms and several offices also sustained smoke and water damage. During the incident an engine from Lawrenceville Fire Co. covered Station 21, and an engine from the Pennington Road Fire Co. stood by at Station 22. An ambulance from Lawrence First Aid Squad stood by on scene but no injuries were reported.
display of fire company history that included minute books, photographs,
newspaper clippings and old helmets lined one wall in the banquet hall.
An antique hose cart, reminiscent of the hand-drawn chemical engine
that was Lawrence Roads first piece of firefighting apparatus,
also stood in the hall. (The hose cart was obtained by Ff. Joe Dlabik
Sr. as a donation from the Lawrenceville Prep School.) Decorations and
special lights set up by Makrancys Landscaping turned the engine
room into a colorful ballroom. The tables were arranged around the walls,
with Engine 22 parked along the front bay doors as a backdrop and the
entertainers (the Joe Zook Blues Deluxe band and Black Tie DJ) positioned
at the back. A second bar was set up near the engine room door. White
balustrades outlined the dance floor in the center of the engine room.
The members room in the upstairs of the firehouse was turned into
a smoking lounge with yet another bar. The dinner, provided by Mastoris
Catering, featured a menu that included salad, pencil points with meat
sauce, prime rib and chicken marsala, oven-roasted potatoes, and green
Trenton Fire Chief Dennis M. Keenan served as the master of ceremonies.
Several former fire company officers who were in attendance were presented
plaques of recognition during the evening. Past presidents Don Cermele
and Joseph Simonelli and past chiefs Ted Clemen Jr., Patrick Quill,
James Yates, and Patrick Kent were all honored. A plaque was presented
to a representative of Educational Testing Service in recognition of
the companys financial support to the fire company over the years.
Plaques were also presented to representatives of Slackwood and Lawrenceville
fire companies and Lawrence First Aid Squad for their past and continuing
support. Lawrence Township Mayor Pat Colavita and Deputy Mayor Greg
Puliti presented a resolution honoring the fire company on its 85th
anniversary, and Congressman Rush Holt presented to Chief John Fleming
a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
a candlelight ceremony, a dogwood tree was blessed and dedicated to
the deceased members of the Lawrence Road Fire Co. (The tree was later
planted on the lawn in front of the firehouse.) President James Yates
also rededicated the fire company to its mission of serving the citizens
of Lawrence Township by unveiling a plaque reading: On May 1,
1914, a group of intrepid community members met at Eldridge Park Elementary
School for the purpose of forming a volunteer fire company. From this
meeting came Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association, with the motto: Life
Value First Always. In recognition of our 85 years of service
to the residents of Fire District #2, as well as the Township of Lawrence,
the members of Lawrence Road Fire Company (formerly Lawrence Volunteer
Fire Association, organized May 1, 1914), past, present and future,
pledge their lasting commitment of service, in the grandest tradition
of our motto Life Value First Always. Dedicated May 1, 1999.
before the dancing began, a cake surrounded by fireworks sparklers was
unveiled and everyone sang Happy Birthday to the Lawrence
Road Fire Co. Mercer County Executive Robert Prunetti and Lawrence Township
Councilman Rick Miller, son of long-time Lawrence Road treasurer Robert
Miller, were among the many honored guests in the crowd.
Everyone attending the ball received a commemorative wine glass, a program of events, a card with the text of the rededication plaque, a postcard photograph of the original firehouse (circa 1915), and a 310-page book on the history of the fire company. The book, written by Ff. Michael Ratcliffe, was printed as a donation by ETS. During the ball, the Slackwood and Lawrenceville fire companies were on alert to respond to any alarms in Lawrence Roads district. No alarms were sounded and the anniversary ball came to a successful conclusion in the early-morning hours. The Trenton Times published an article about Lawrence Roads 85th anniversary on Sunday, May 2, 1999, and the Trentonian printed a photo and brief story about the anniversary ball on Tuesday, May 4, 1999.
out-of-control Oldsmobile collided almost head-on with a van and then
crashed into some small trees and shrubs along the southbound shoulder
of the highway. Meanwhile, the van collided with a Cadillac, overturned
and came to rest on its roof along the southbound shoulder several dozen
feet away from the Oldsmobile. At 8:23 a.m., Lawrence Control dispatched
Station 23 and Squad 129. Rescue 129 was dispatched several minutes
later by Mercer County Central Communications Center after state police
confirmed there was entrapment.
23 responded at 8:24 a.m. and arrived on scene at 8:29 a.m. to find
that the driver of the overturned van had already crawled out of his
vehicle, but that the driver and passenger of the Oldsmobile were still
trapped. Rescue 129 signed on radio at 8:31 a.m. A short time later
some type of mechanical failure occurred that rendered Engine 23s
Hurst tool inoperative. At 8:33 a.m., Lawrenceville Capt. Butch Bentley
asked Mercer County Central to dispatch Rescue 22.
Rescue 22, with a crew of six rescue-trained firefighters, signed on radio at 8:34 a.m. Rescue 129 and Chief 22 both arrived on scene at 8:37 a.m., followed two minutes later by Rescue 22. Rescue 22s crew deployed their Holmatro tools and cut one A post, two B posts and two C posts on the Oldsmobile. The cars roof was removed and crews from Rescue 129 and Engine 23 performed a dash displacement. Both patients were extricated from the Oldsmobile by 8:58 a.m. and transported by ambulances to the trauma unit at the Capital Health System at Fuld hospital in Trenton. Rescue 22s crew then assisted in containing fuel spilled onto the roadway from the overturned van. Rescue 22 returned to Station 22 at 10:08 a.m.
22 was among the companies dispatched on the first alarm at 9:22 p.m.
Pennington Chief Jason Belmont arrived on location at 9:27 p.m. and
reported he had heavy smoke pushing out from all floors and heavy fire
showing from the rear and Side D of the structure. Propane gas spewing
out from two or three small tanks stored next to a barbecue grill on
the back porch helped fuel the flames. Rescue 22, which signed on radio
at 9:26 p.m., was the third unit to arrive on location at 9:35 p.m.
Rescue 22 laid a backup supply line and took up a position near the
front of the fire building directly behind Ladder Tower 51 and Rescue
51. Rescue 22s crew then took out a first-floor window for ventilation.
Michael Byrd then used a Denver tool to force entry through a side door
leading to the kitchen. While Rescue Capt. Chris Longo, Ff. Chris Pangaldi
and Slackwood Ff. Michael Burzachiello (who rode with Rescue 22) stretched
a 1.75-inch handline to attack the flames in the kitchen, Byrd and Ff.
Larry Forker began a primary search. As Rescue 22s crew worked
its way to the next floor, they discovered that a section of floor in
the hallway on the second floor had been burned away in the fire. Meanwhile,
Engine 22 was dispatched at 9:28 p.m. to stand by at Station 51. A miscommunication
resulted in Engine 22 responding to Station 52. But at 9:56 p.m., Engine
22 was redirected to the scene for extra manpower.
22 arrived at 10:03 p.m. and its crew was put to work in stretching
another 1.75-inch handline up to the third floor. As Ffs. Walter Hlewicki
and Michael Ratcliffe were hitting the fire from the top of the stairs,
flames burned through a large section of the roof and shot 20 feet into
the air. At that point, evacuations tones were sounded and all firefighters
were ordered to leave the building. Ladder Tower 51 then opened its
master stream on the fire on the third floor. Interior operations resumed
once the bulk of the fire was darkened down.
fire was finally declared under control at 10:54 p.m. Firefighters then
spent several hours overhauling and assisting investigators from the
Mercer County Prosecutors Office and Mercer County Fire Marshals
Office. Apparatus on the fireground, in order of arrival, included:
Rescue 51, Ladder Tower 51, Rescue 22, Engine 52, Telesquirt 53, Telesquirt
23, Engine 51, Engine 22, Engine 33-2, and Special Services 32.
5:21 p.m. Mercer County Central Communications Center dispatched Engine
21 to cover Station 31 and Engine 22 to cover Station 32. At 5:29 p.m.
Ladder Tower 51 and Engine 0 (Bucks County) were sent to Station 33.
With heavy fire still raging in the third floor and additional manpower
needed, Prospect Heights Chief Bill Erney ordered that the second alarm
be transmitted. At 5:40 p.m. Snorkel 21 was dispatched to the fireground,
followed a minute later by Engine 14-2. At 5:43 p.m., Engine 21 and
Engine 22 were ordered to respond to the scene from their cover stations.
22 arrived at 5:45 p.m. and, with fire venting through the roof of the
dwelling, its crew advanced a handline up the stairs to attack the flames
on the top floor. After the second alarm was struck Engine 14-1 was
sent to Station 31 and Engine 12 was sent to Station 32. At 5:55 p.m.,
Ladder Tower 23 was relocated to stand by at Lawrence Roads firehouse.
blaze was finally declared under control at 6:09 p.m. But companies
continued to work overhauling the fire for several hours. The Signal
22 canteen responded to provide firefighters with refreshments. The
afternoons high humidity took a toll on firefighters. Two men
were treated on scene for heat-related injuries and one Prospect Heights
firefighter was taken to Capital Health System at Mercer hospital for
treatment. Engine 22 did not return to Station 22 until 8:17 p.m.
(Ironically, the blaze in Ewing was reported while firefighters in the northern end of the county were busy battling a blaze in a mansion on Arreton Road in Princeton Township. That fire, reported about 4 p.m., went to three alarms. Engine 22 would have been dispatched to the scene for manpower relief had it not already been committed at the fire in Ewing. Because of all the resources tied up between the two fires, Colonial Fire Co. from Hamilton sent an engine to cover Princeton Township.)
the fire intensified inside Medical Indicators, smoke filtered to the
other side of the building, triggering the Fashions fire alarm at 10:59
p.m. The Pennington Fire Co. was sent to investigate. There was an odor
of smoke in the air when police and firefighters arrived on scene. After
forcing entry to the Fashions side of the warehouse, firefighters realized
they had a working fire and called for the full first alarm.
firefighters soon determined the fire was located in the other half
of the building. Heavy smoke pushed from around the frame as soon as
they began forcing their way through the metal door at the front of
Medical Indicators. Because the extent of the fire was unknown at that
time and items stored inside the warehouse offered a ready supply of
fuel, Pennington Chief Jason Belmont requested the second alarm as a
precaution about 11:22 p.m.
Roads Rescue 22 was among the apparatus that responded to the
fireground to assist Pennington firefighters. Others came from Hopewell,
Union, Lawrenceville, Pennington Road and West Trenton fire companies.
Engine 22 was later dispatched to cover Penningtons firehouse,
along with an engine from the Hopewell Fire Co. and a unit from Montgomery
Township. A pair of 1.75-inch handlines were stretched into Medical
Indicators to attack the fire. Meanwhile, Ladder Tower 51, Telesquirt
32, and Telesquirt 53 were raised to the roof to assist in ventilation
and to stand ready in case conditions inside deteriorated and master
streams were needed.
Fortunately, interior crews made good progress and the fire was contained to the workroom where it began. The rest of Medical Indicators, however, sustained major smoke damage. The fire was under control by 12:05 a.m. Rescue 22s crew assisted with overhaul and Rescue 22s light tower and cascade were also put to work. Lawrence Road firefighters did not return to Station 22 until after 1:30 a.m. Ironically, the blaze at Medical Indicators occurred a short distance from where a two-alarm fire on January 19, 1997, destroyed one of the warehouses at the Hopewell Valley Industrial Park in the 1600 block of Reed Road.
about 5:11 p.m. Engine 22 arrived in the area of the smoke, which was
rising up from the line of trees separating the southbound side of Interstate
95 from Denow Road. Engine 22 parked on the shoulder of the highway
and Ff. Michael Byrd and Ff. Michael Ratcliffe entered the woods to
investigate. They discovered an area of brush burning along the ground,
with a primary electrical wire burning overhead on a utility pole located
on Denow Road. Burch radioed County Central and had Station 23 dispatched
to the fire via Denow Road. Meanwhile, Byrd and Ratcliffe stretched
the 1.75-inch trash line off Engine 22 and extinguished the brush fire
from a safe distance.
Traffic on the interstate continued to speed past with absolutely no regard for the engine and its firefighters. As a result, Lt. Gary Wasko had to operate Engine 22s pump using extreme caution for his own safety. A request was made for a police unit to assist with traffic control, however the police did not arrive until after the fire was out. Two Lawrenceville engines arrived and extinguished a small amount of brush burning along Denow Road. At 5:37 p.m., Engine 22 was relocated to Station 23 to stand by while the Lawrenceville firefighters waited for a PSE&G utility crew to arrive on Denow Road. Engine 22 covered Station 23 until approximately 6:20 p.m.
Engine 31-2 reached the scene at 4:18 p.m., followed by Rescue 22 at 4:21 p.m. Squirt 31 pulled up next at 4:24 p.m., followed two minutes later by Brush 23 (which had been special-called). Engine 31-1 arrived at 4:28 p.m. Pennington Roads Engine 32-3 was dispatched to cover Station 31 but was then called to the scene at 4:30 p.m. It arrived at 4:34 p.m. and Telesquirt 32 was subsequently sent to stand by at Prospect Heights firehouse. Rescue 22s crew went in service with a pair of 1.75-inch handlines, connected by a wye to a 3-inch line, and ultimately knocked down a large area of fire. Rescue 22 was supplied water by Squirt 31 and Engine 31-1. The situation was declared under control at 4:40 p.m. Rescue 22 finally returned to quarters by 5:29 p.m.
21 arrived to find a working fire at 64 Carr Avenue. At that time, heavy
smoke was issuing from the two-story house and flames were visible in
a basement window on Side D. The Snorkels crew immediately went
in service with a 1.75-inch handline supplied by the Snorkels
250-gallon tank. They also radioed for help. At 9:12 a.m., all three
township fire companies and the first aid squad were dispatched. Engine
21-1 arrived on the scene at 9:13 a.m. and its crew helped establish
a water supply for the Snorkel from a nearby hydrant. Engine 22 responded
at 9:14 a.m. and arrived two minutes later. Engine 22 backed down Carr
Avenue from Princeton Pike and, as per the orders of Slackwood Chief
Ken Johnson, its crew reported to the front of the dwelling.
Road Ff. Michael Peterson, Ff. Edward Kitchen and Ff. Larry Forker laddered
the front of the building and assisted with ventilation. Meanwhile,
Ff. Michael Byrd and Ff. Michael Ratcliffe helped Slackwood Ff. John
Oakley Sr. stretch a second 1.75-inch handline through a rear door and
down the basement stairs. Ladder Tower 23 arrived on location at 9:21
a.m. and its crew was ordered to stand by as the FAST Team. Engine 21
arrived with additional manpower two minutes later. The fire was declared
under control at 9:24 a.m. The basement, which was furnished with various
pieces of furniture including a small bed and couch, was gutted by the
flames, while the remainder of the dwelling sustained light-to-moderate
smoke damage. Two windows in a room on the second floor were knocked
out for ventilation.
Rescue 22, which arrived on location at 9:25 a.m., went in service using its onboard cascade system to fill SCBA bottles. Telesquirt 23 arrived at 9:28 a.m. but was released from the scene just nine minutes later. During the incident, Engine 31-1 covered Station 21 and Ladder Tower 31 covered Station 22. Rescue 22 was allowed to return to quarters at 10:04 a.m., but Engine 22 was held at the scene to assist in overhaul work after the investigation into the cause of the blaze was completed. Conducting the investigation were several Lawrence Township police detectives and fire inspectors, along with Mercer County Assistant Fire Marshal John Kubilewicz and Detective Lloyd Mathis from the Mercer County Prosecutors Office. Lawrence Road Deputy Chief Richard Farletta also assisted. The team of investigators spent more than an hour in the basement examining the charred remains of the furnishings and electrical fixtures. Once the investigation was completed, Slackwood firefighters and the crew from Engine 22 began clearing the burned items from the house. Much of the debris was passed out through a basement window. Engine 22 was finally released from the scene at approximately 12:30 p.m.
Union Fire Co. of Titusville was dispatched at 12:19 p.m. Engine 53-1 arrived first and encountered heavy fire. The driver of the car carrier somehow managed to free himself from the wreckage. But the driver of the tractor-tanker was trapped in his cab. Despite heroic rescue attempts by civilians and firefighters, the man burned to death. Mutual aid was quickly requested from both the Pennington and Hopewell fire companies, as well as from West Amwell and Lambertville in Hunterdon County. Difficulty in obtaining an accurate reading of the numbers on the burning tankers placard led authorities to believe the tankers cargo was nitriles, a poisonous, flammable material. As a result, Foam Engine 34-8 from the Trenton Mercer Airport and the Trenton Fire Departments hazardous materials task force were special-called to the scene.
resources were also dispatched from the West Trenton and Pennington
Road fire companies.
22, driven by Ff. Michael Peterson and commanded by Capt. Marty Burch,
arrived at the jail to find at least five BLS ambulances and two ALS
rigs in the EMS staging area. Ffs. Michael Byrd, Edward Kitchen, Larry
Forker and Michael Ratcliffe stretched a 1.75-inch handline off Rescue
22 and took turns decontaminating three patients. Each patient, including
the driver of the car carrier and one Titusville firefighter, were stripped
of their clothes and hosed down for 20 minutes before being transported.
Telesquirt 23 was dispatched to assist Rescue 22 and helped build several dirt and stone dikes to prevent runoff water from the decontamination operation from entering nearby storm sewers. As the third victim was nearing the completion of decontamination, authorities at the crash scene finally learned that the burning tanker actually contained only hot tar and was not filled with any hazardous materials. Following that revelation, decontamination operations were discontinued and Rescue 22 and Telesquirt 23 were relocated to the crash scene. Both units arrived as the body of the dead man was being removed. Rescue 22s crew were then got a close-up examination of the two burned vehicles before being released to return to Station 22. (At 3:42 p.m., just as Rescue 22 arrived back in its own district, Lawrence Road Fire Co. was dispatched to an odor of gas at 32 Smithfield Avenue. The odor was eventually traced to pesticides being sprayed by a neighbor.)
vehicles were parked in the driveway and neighbors told Fleming they
thought the residents might be trapped inside the burning home. Fleming
immediately advised all incoming units of the possibility of entrapment.
Rescue 22 arrived on location at 10:23 a.m. Firefighters forced entry
through the front door and stretched a 1.75-inch handline into the smoke-filled
dwelling. While Longo and Ff. Ryan Quill and Ff. Larry Forker advanced
the hose, Ff. Edward Kitchen and Ff. Michael Ratcliffe initiated a primary
search of the first floor.
22s crew quickly determined that the fire was located in the basement.
The interior door leading to the basement was located in the kitchen
but it was blocked by several items, including a large water cooler.
Once the obstructions were removed, the handline was advanced down the
stairs to attack the flames. Firefighters encountered heavy heat and
smoke as they made their way into the basement. Snorkel 21 arrived at
10:25 a.m., followed one minute later by Engine 21-1. Slackwood firefighters
initially assisted Lawrence Road Driver Rob Santello in hooking Rescue
22 up to a nearby hydrant. They then helped in fire suppression and
ventilation efforts. At 10:29 a.m., Engine 22 arrived with additional
second 1.75-inch handline was advanced from Rescue 22 through the front
door to the basement stairs. A third 1.75-inch handline was stretched
from Rescue 22 to Side B of the home after crews in the basement reported
the fire might be extending up through the ceiling and walls on that
side. A fourth 1.75-inch handline was stretched from Engine 21-1 to
the basement bilco doors on Side C. Slackwood Firefighter Ed Budzinski
located two pet cats behind a couch in the first-floor living room.
Budzinski removed the cats from the building and turned them over to
a Lawrence First Aid Squad ambulance crew. The pets (which were later
identified as a calico named Munchkin and a black cat named
Electra) were both suffering from smoke inhalation and were
revived at the scene with oxygen.
large collection of Star Wars memorabilia (including two
arcade-style video games, a life-sized R2D2 model, and scores of plastic
action figures and other toys) stacked up from floor to ceiling made
movement in the basement difficult for firefighters. Several boxes fell
on top of Rescue 22s crew as they advanced the first handline
into the basement. Several other items were knocked over by firefighters
SCBA bottles as the men fought the fire. The heavy smoke and heat also
took its toll of the firefighters. At 10:35 a.m. Lawrencevilles
Telesquirt 23 (which was covering Station 22) was special-called to
the scene for manpower purposes.
fire was knocked down and under control at 10:38 a.m. The basement was
gutted and much of the valuable memorabilia stored there was burned
beyond recognition or melted by the heat. Several walls on the first
floor had to be opened to check for fire extension. The first floor
and attic also sustained heavy smoke damage. Engine 32-3 from Pennington
Road Fire Co. was relocated to stand by at Station 22 after Telesquirt
23 was moved up to the fireground. But at 10:59 a.m., Fleming special-called
Engine 32-3 to the scene to assist in the ongoing overhaul operations.
As a result, Hopewells Engine 52 was dispatched to take over coverage
at Lawrence Roads firehouse. Meanwhile, Engine 31-1 from Prospect
Heights Fire Co. stood by at Slackwoods firehouse.
It was later learned that the blaze had been discovered by two painting contractors, Steve Muni and Kevin Holmes, working next door. The men smelled smoke and went to investigate while the neighbor called 911. Thinking residents were home, the men climbed through a window and made a quick search. They rescued a pet dog (a dachshund named Chewbacca) and exited the home through the window as firefighters were arriving. It was also later discovered that the owner of the house, Rider University Professor Donald Wygal, and his wife were away on vacation in California and that no one was home when the fire started. The investigation into the cause of the blaze was conducted by Lawrence police, Detective Lloyd Mathis of the Mercer County Prosecutors Office and Mercer County Assistant Fire Marshal John Kubilewicz. Lawrence Road Deputy Chief Richard Farletta assisted. The investigators determined that the blaze was caused when an extension cord overheated. The cord, which was attached to a dehumidifier, was found coiled beneath a small sofa next to one of the arcade games. All Lawrence Road personnel were back in quarters by 1:45 p.m.
Rescue 22 was positioned nearby so its light tower could be put in service, while Snorkel 21 was backed up to the apartment building and its bucket raised to the second-floor bedroom window. Meanwhile, Lawrence Road firefighters removed the glass from the window and also moved several pieces of furniture in the bedroom out of the way. Squad personnel and the crew from Rescue 22 then placed the woman, who was lying on the floor, on a stokes basket. Straps and rope were used to secure the woman to the basket. With more than a dozen first aid squad members and firefighters helping to lift, the stokes basket was lifted and passed through the open window. It was placed onto the rails of the Snorkels bucket and slowly lowered to the ground. The stretcher was removed from the ambulance and the woman (still in the stokes basket) was slid into the ambulance and transported to the Capital Health System at Fuld hospital in Trenton. Lawrence Road Firefighters Edward Kitchen and Walter Hlewicki accompanied Rescue 129 to the hospital to assist in lifting the woman from the ambulance onto a hospital bed. The woman was admitted to the critical care unit for congestive heart failure. Rescue 22 signed off radio at Station 22 at 9:59 p.m.
12:52 p.m. and 1:39 p.m., Chief 22 and Utility 22 investigated other
water conditions at 22 Zoar Street, 2371 Princeton Pike, and 196 Eldridge
Avenue. In all cases, the water was below the level at which portable
pumps could operate. The residents were advised to monitor the situation
and call Station 22 if the water level rose. Station 22 firefighters
next responded to two false alarms in Slackwoods district caused
by malfunctioning alarm systems. The runs were to 2350 Princeton Pike
at 2:06 p.m. and to 44 Myrtle Street at 2:34 p.m.
4:30 p.m., Lawrence Control dispatched Slackwood and Lawrence Road firefighters
and the Lawrence First Aid Squad to a reported fire inside the laundry
room of one of the apartment buildings in the Meadow Woods complex at
423 Lawrence Road. Both Engine 22 and Rescue 22 responded. Slackwood
firefighters arrived first and made a quick knock down, containing the
blaze to a small area of the wall inside the laundry room. Lawrence
Road firefighters were held on their apparatus and then returned to
Station 22 at 4:55 p.m. At 5:44 p.m., Utility 22 was sent back to 13
Pine Knoll Drive and one wet-vac was utilized to remove more flood water
from the home. At 5:46 p.m., Station 22 was dispatched to 3140 Princeton
Pike to help Lawrenceville Fire Co. check a fire alarm that was set
off by water leaking through the roof. Engine 22 and Rescue 22 responded.
At 7:24 p.m., Utility 22 investigated a water condition at 20 Pine Knoll
Drive but no service was needed.
civilian stopped into Station 22 at 8:37 p.m. to report that a woman
was trapped in her car in flood water near the Shabakunk Creek on Princeton
Pike near Fairfield Avenue. Rescue 22 responded and arrived to find
that the woman had been already helped from the water by Lawrence Police
Patrolman Dave Burns. At 9 p.m., Lawrence Control notified Station 22
that the caretaker of 103 Merline Avenue had reported a water condition
in the home. Utility 22 responded to the scene but was not met by the
caretaker. As a result, entry to the home could not be gained. The exterior
was checked with no hazards found and Utility 22 returned to quarters.
9:41 p.m., Mercer County Central dispatched Rescue 22 to 3000 Brunswick
Pike to help Lawrenceville Fire Co. evacuate the Sleepy Hollow Motel,
which was surrounded by flood water about three feet deep and rising.
Rescue 22 was positioned on a nearby section of Route 1 where the flood
water was only about one foot deep at that time. Rescue 22s light
tower was raised to illuminate the scene and Rescue 22s crew cab
was used as a temporary shelter to warm evacuees before they were moved
to an ambulance and school bus waiting at Franklin Corner Road. Marine
129 from the Lawrence First Aid Squad (manned, in part, by Lawrence
Road Ffs. Edward Kitchen, Walter Hlewicki and Shaun Dlabik), Marine
31 from Prospect Heights Fire Co. and Marine 32 from the Pennington
Road Fire Co. were utilized to remove the motel occupants from their
rooms. Rescue 22s crew stood by on Route 1 and helped remove the
many evacuees from the boats. Approximately 29 adults and five children
were evacuated. Rescue 22 returned to Station 22 at 11 p.m.
told that the Mounts Motel was still occupied and that it was
entirely surrounded by flood water, Lawrence Police Patrolman Michael
Yeh ordered a mandatory evacuation of the Mounts Motel (which
is located a few hundred feet from the Sleepy Hollow Motel). Rescue
129 and Marine 129 from the Lawrence First Aid Squad were special-called
to the scene to assist. Crews from both fire companies and the first
aid squad then waded through the flood water and began pounding on doors
to notify the motel occupants of the mandatory evacuation. Women and
children were evacuated using Marine 129, while men were escorted through
the flood water by a chain of firefighters. One man initially refused
to evacuate. But after Patrolman Yeh rode over in Marine 129 and made
it clear to the man he would be arrested if he did not leave, he finally
cooperated. A handful of evacuees were carried out in the bucket of
a township front-end loader. A total of about two dozen people were
8:43 a.m., while the operation at the Mounts Motel was still underway,
Engine 22 was dispatched to aid Slackwood Fire Co. at another water
rescue on Whitehead Road at Route 1. When they arrived, firefighters
found that a pickup truck was almost entirely submerged in flood water
near the Assunpink Creek bridge. Rescue 1 from the Trenton Fire Department
was special-called to assist in rescuing the pickups driver, who
stood atop his vehicle. The man refused to wait for Trentons boat
to arrive and decided to make his own way through the water. Firefighters
yelled to the man and urged him to stay where he was, but the man refused
to stop and waded through water that was more than chest-deep. Amazingly,
the man avoided being swept into the creek and made his way to safety.
Engine 22 cleared the scene and was back at Station 22 by 9:30 a.m.
Because they were already in the area when they were recalled from Whitehead
Road, Trentons Rescue 1 proceeded up the road to assist at Route
1 and Franklin Corner Road. The evacuation of the Mounts Motel
was completed prior to their arrival, however both of Rescue 1s
boats were deployed to check the homes along Bakers Basin Road, which
was entirely under water. Trenton firefighters helped remove a handful
of residents, as well as a variety of pets, including some llamas and
goats, from Lawrence Landscaping. Rescue 22 finally left Route 1 and
Franklin Corner Road and was back at Station 22 by 10:45 a.m.
5:10 p.m. a multi-vehicle accident was reported in the northbound lanes
of Route 1, just south of Bakers Basin Road near the Mrs. Gs appliance
store. Squad 129 was dispatched. Further information was received reporting
entrapment and Lawrence Control dispatched Station 21, Rescue 22 and
Rescue 129 at 5:12 p.m. Rescue 22 signed on radio at 5:14 p.m. with
a crew composed of Capt. Jim Moran, Lt. Gary Wasko, and Ffs. Andy Fosina,
Edward Kitchen and Michael Ratcliffe. One minute later Rescue 22 and
Rescue 129 were recalled because a police officer on the scene reported
that no one was trapped. Rescue 22 returned to Station 22 at 5:16 p.m.
At 5:17 p.m. Slackwood Deputy Chief Mark Lenarski arrived on the scene
and discovered that there indeed was entrapment. Rescue 22 and Rescue
129 were again dispatched at 5:19 p.m.. Both the driver and passenger
of one of the vehicles were trapped. The passenger was quickly extricated
but the driver was caught behind the steering column and had his legs
pinned by the dashboard.
At 8 p.m. on Tuesday, December 7, 1999, members of the Lawrence Road Fire Co. were dispatched to the corner of Lawrence Road and Lawrence Avenue after police Patrolman Michael Yeh was struck by a car while directing traffic for St. Anns Church. Ff./EMT Andy Fosina, who was in the firehouse when the tones went out, was among the first on the scene. Fosina helped care for Yeh, who suffered a leg injury, and responded with him to the hospital in a Lawrence ambulance. Station 22 members then helped police direct traffic during the investigation.
was 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, December 30, 1999, when Lawrence Control
dispatched the Lawrenceville and Slackwood fire companies on Box 23-5
for a structure fire on Rickard Court in Lawrence Square Village. Mercerville
Fire Co. and Telesquirt 43 from West Windsor were then dispatched on
the first alarm by the Mercer County Central Communications Center.
At 11:32 p.m. Engine 24 from Lawrencevilles substation arrived
and reported heavy smoke issuing from a three-story condominium building.
They then reported heavy fire showing from a first-floor unit on Side
and Commini, who had been at Quaker Bridge Plaza when they heard the
first alarm transmitted, arrived on scene just moments after a group
of civilians caught a 6-month-old girl and a 4-year-old boy in a blanket.
The children had been thrown from the third-floor by their mother. With
help from some bystanders, Fleming and Commini raised a ladder into
position on Side D of the fire building and then (without the protection
of any turnout gear) climbed to the third floor and through a window
into the apartment where the childrens mother and their babysitter
were trapped. Realizing it would be impossible to get the two women
down the stairway, which by that time was choked with heavy smoke, Fleming
and Commini helped the women through the window and down the ladder
to safety. They also helped rescue another woman from a second-floor
arriving on the scene were Engine 12 at 11:35 a.m.; Telesquirt 23 at
11:39 a.m.; Snorkel 21 at 11:40 a.m.; Rescue 12 at 11:40 a.m.; Engine
21 at 11:42 a.m.; and Telesquirt 43 at 11:45 a.m. Lawrenceville Chief
Bob Brackett, who arrived on location at 11:37 a.m., called the second
alarm at 11:40 a.m. and Mercer County Central dispatched Engine 22,
Tower Ladder 17 and Tower Ladder 44. Engine 22 signed on radio at 11:41
a.m. and arrived at 11:47 a.m.
All second alarm units, including Engine 22, as well as Engine 23, were kept in staging at Lawrencevilles substation. At 11:56 a.m. the fire was declared under control and all second alarm companies were recalled. Brackett then made a request for a cascade unit and Rescue 22 was special-called. Rescue 22 responded at 12:08 p.m. Rescue 22s cascade system was used to fill several SCBA bottles before returning to quarters by 1 p.m. The fire, which was apparently caused by an electrical fault, gutted the first-floor unit where it started and caused damage to the units located above it. Amazingly, there were no serious injuries, thanks in part to the quick work of many civilians, Fleming and Commini, and firefighters. During the incident, Engine 52 covered Station 23, Engine 14-2 covered Station 12 and Ladder Tower 31 stood by at Station 21.