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FEBRUARY 12, 2006


Gill Chapel, Rider University,
2083 Lawrence Road, Lawrence Township

During the evening of Sunday, February 12, 2006, volunteers from Lawrence Road Fire Co. responded to Rider University for a report of smoke and a possible fire inside Gill Chapel.

It was 11:49 p.m. when Mercer County Central Communications Center transmitted Box 22-20 and dispatched all three Lawrence Township fire companies to the university’s campus at 2083 Lawrence Road.

A Lawrence First Aid Squad ambulance was also dispatched.

Ironically, even though a crew of dedicated Lawrence Road volunteers had slept in the firehouse throughout the storm, the run to Rider was the first alarm to come in after 18 inches of snow were dumped on the town by a blizzard that began during the afternoon of Saturday, February 11, and concluded on Sunday afternoon.

Chief Wayne Hannon responded in Car 22 at 11:50 p.m.

Ladder Tower 23 responded at 11:53 p.m., followed by Telesquirt 22 at 11:54 p.m., Snorkel 21 at 11:55 p.m., and then Engine 22 at 11:56 p.m.

Telesquirt 22 was commanded by Ff. Steven Amiott, driven by Ff. Charles Commini Sr., and crewed by Ff. Martin Burch, Ff. R.J. Laird, and Ff. Joseph Dlabik Jr.

Engine 22 was commanded by Capt. Michael Ratcliffe and driven by Ff. Joseph Dlabik Sr., with a crew that included Capt. Edward Kitchen, Ff. Evan Kutzin, Ff. Ryan Dlabik, and Ff. Charles Commini Jr.
Deputy Chief Chris Pangaldi also responded in Car 22-1, but his times were not logged.

Hannon and Telesquirt 22 arrived on location at 11:56 p.m., followed by Ladder Tower 23 at 11:59 p.m., Engine 22 at midnight, and Snorkel 21 at 12:03 a.m.

University security guards on the scene directed Telesquirt 22’s crew to the basement of the chapel. Firefighters quickly discovered that a light ballast in the basement ceiling had burned out and had generated a moderate smoke condition throughout the basement.

After Telesquirt 22’s crew had confirmed that there was no fire extension in the ceiling, crews from Engine 22 and Ladder Tower 23 set up positive pressure fans and smoke ejectors to clear the smoke from the chapel.

As ventilation efforts were underway, Snorkel 21 was ordered at 12:09 a.m. to respond to the Lawrence Township police station at 2211 Lawrence Road for a fire alarm system activation.

The alarm was actually received at 11:52 p.m.

Because of the possible structure fire at Rider University, Mercer County Central automatically dispatched Pennington Road’s Engine 32 and Prospect Heights’ Ladder Tower 31 to the police station to investigate the alarm system.

The crews from Snorkel 21, Engine 32, and Ladder Tower 31 eventually discovered that the alarm had been triggered by a system fault and the assignment was recalled at 12:22 a.m.

Meanwhile, with smoke removal at the chapel finished, Ladder Tower 23, Engine 22 and Telesquirt 22 also all took up from the Rider University campus at 12:22 a.m.

Engine 22 and Telesquirt 22 were both in quarters at Station 22 by 12:29 a.m.

All photos copyright (c) 2006 by Michael Ratcliffe.

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