January 12, 1986
An early-morning fire destroyed the Durkin House on the campus of Rider College on Sunday, January 12, 1986. Lawrence Road firefighters were dispatched at 12:49 a.m. and responded with Engines 22-1 and 22-2. They remained in service for about four hours. The following account was printed in the Trenton Times on
Monday, January 13, 1986:
“A fire ripped through the Rider College School of Education officers early yesterday morning leaving the building a total loss. There were no injuries reported. The fire, which was ruled accidental, started in floor joists in the Durkin House on Route 206, which housed the school officers, said Lawrenceville Fire Co. Chief Richard Hocking. ‘It was a slow, smoldering fire which had probably been burning for many hours’ before it was reported at 12:51 a.m. yesterday by at least three passersby, Hocking said.
“The house was built around 1910 and had been the location of Rider’s School of Education officers since the college moved from Trenton in the late 1950's said Earle Rommel, Rider's director of public information. Hocking said the fire began in the basement area where a college maintenance man had soldered some water pipes between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. The blaze ‘probably started from the heat and fire used in the soldering,’ he said. ‘When there's too much heat near the wooden floor joists, the wood is a lot easier toaccidentally get on fire.’ He said the accident is not uncommon.
“When firefighters arrived ‘there was heavy fire coming out of the windows’ on each of the three floors of the building, Hocking said. The center section of the roof and floors of the building's north side collapsed into the basement, which forced firefighters to remain on the scene until about 6 a.m. to hose down the ruins, Hocking said. About 60 firefighters from the township's three fire companies – Lawrenceville, Slackwood and Lawrence Road – battled the blaze.”
January 19, 1986
At 5:37 p.m. on Sunday, January 19, 1986, a working fire was reported in the vacant two-story dwelling at 56 Merline Avenue. Lawrence Road firefighters arrived to find heavy fire in a framed porch area. The flames were knocked down with a 1.75-inch handline. The fire was declared under control at 6:16 a.m. (Editor’s Note: At 8:42 p.m. on Thursday, February 20, 1986, Lawrence Road firefighters were dispatched to smaller suspicious blaze at the same address. That fire, apparently set with a flare, was knocked down with a booster line. The building was finally burned to the ground by another suspicious fire on Sunday, August 3, 1986.)
Lawrence Road Fire Company’s new 1,750 gpm 3-D pumper arrived in early 1986. It was designated Engine 22-3.
The first incident report on which Engine 22-3 appears is the one for a “possible electrical fire” in a state building at the Brunswick Circle on Tuesday, February 18, 1986. Station 22 was dispatched at 2:45 p.m. and was back in quarters by 2:59 p.m.
May 9, 1986
At 8:44 p.m. on Friday, May 9, 1986, Engine 22-1 was dispatched to assist in fire suppression and overhaul at the scene of a fire in the Sunset Motel, while Engine 22-2 was sent to stand by at the Lawrenceville firehouse. The following account was printed in the Trenton Times on Saturday, May 10, 1986: “A fire destroyed part of an abandoned Route 1 motel last night, tying up traffic in the southbound lanes of the highway for nearly a mile. The fire broke out in the rear wing o the former Sunset Motel about 8:45 p.m. and was under control in an hour, according to Lawrenceville Fire Co. Chief Dick Hocking. Hocking labeled the fire ‘suspicious’ and said an investigation into its cause was being conducted by the arson unit of the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office. Hocking said the fire spread from the rear wing to the main portion of the motel, which suffered heavy damage from the fire and from water sprayed by firefighters. The wing, about 20 feet wide and extending 15 feet behind the main building, collapsed. About 50 firefighters from the Lawrenceville, Slackwood and Lawrence Road fire companies responded to the blaze.”
June 25, 1986
A junkyard fire in Falls Township, Pa., prompted a mutual aid response from the Lawrence Road Fire Co. on Wednesday, June 25, 1986. Engine 22-3 was dispatched at 5:06 p.m. and was in service for three hours. The following account was printed in the Trenton Times on Thursday, June 26, 1986: “A fire in a pile of tires at an auto junkyard on Route 1 yesterday sent clouds of heavy smoke billowing into the sky and disrupted traffic on a six-mile stretch of Route 1. Traffic was delayed on Route 1 for at least three miles in each direction from 3:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. The fire spewed plumes of thick black smoke which could be seen up to 20 miles away. Firefighters from more than 20 fire departments in Bucks and Mercer counties battled the blaze. The blaze continued to smolder into the evening. The firefighters had to drag hoses across Route 1, stretching them from water tank trucks along the highway to the fire scene, which is at least 500 feet from the busy highway. The fire at the Auto Salvage & Used Parts was spotted in a pile of about 6,000 tires by junkyard employees shortly after 3:30 p.m. The fire was reported under control at 6:30 p.m., but firefighters remained on the scene last night. At least two unidentified firefighters who suffered smoke inhalation were taken to the Delaware Valley Medical Center, where they were treated and released. Many other firefighters were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation and minor burns. No buildings were reported damaged...”
July 10, 1986
The home of Lawrence Road Firefighter Tim Kasony Sr. was damaged by fire on Thursday, July 10, 1986. The following report was written by Lawrence Township Fire Inspector Michael Oakley:
“On Thursday, July 10, 1986, at 11:55 a.m. Lawrence Township Patrolman Peter Harmon, who was working as the police dispatcher, received a phone call from Tim Kasony Sr. of 16 Forrest Avenue reporting a working fire at the above mentioned address. At 11:57 a.m. Station 22 and 21 were dispatched for a report of a working house fire at 16 Forrest Avenue. Battalion Chief 22, John Fleming, arrived first on the scene and reported heavy smoke showing from the third floor. First-arriving Engine 22-1 was ordered to lead off with 1.5-inch hoselines.
“At 12:00 p.m. Chief 22, Ted Clemen, and Chief 21, Dale Robbins, arrived on the fireground and started sizing up the scene for incoming units. At 12:01 p.m. Engine 21-2 under the command of Captain 21-1, Ed Budzinski, was ordered to lay a 5-inch line from the hydrant in front of 23 Forrest Avenue and backup Engine 22-1. The first hose line to reach the fire, which was located on the third floor 8-by-20 foot bedroom, was attacked by Tim Kasony Sr. and Rick Farletta. Both firemen commented that there was heavy smoke and fire at the top stairway entrance to the bedroom.
“At 12:05 p.m., Station 23 was requested by Chief Clemen to cover Station 22. Engine 23-2 under the command of Assistant Chief Kevin Reading was ordered by Chief Clemen to disregard his request for standby and to proceed into the scene to assist with extra manpower. At 12:15 p.m., Assistant Chief 21, Jack Oakley Jr., who was in command of the third-floor fire attack operations, relayed to Chief 22 that the fire was knocked down and controlled. At 12:20 p.m. Chief Clemen placed the fire under control and requested the fire marshal respond to the scene.
“At 12:50 p.m. Mercer County Assistant Fire Marshal Joseph Lenhardt arrived on the scene. Final conclusion of the investigation was that the fire started in a 4-by-6 foot clothes closet located on the third floor. A light bulb was left on in the closet touching against some clothing material. Three firefighters received minor injuries at the scene. Joseph Lenarski of Station 21 and Ken Kandrac of Station 23 reported minor finger cuts and Michael Oakley of Station 21 reported an eye injury. All units left the scene and went available at 2:55 p.m.” At 4:33 p.m. that same day, Lawrence Road Fire Co. was dispatched back to the Kasony residence at 16 Forrest Avenue to extinguish a rekindle of the fire in the third floor area.
August 3, 1986
The vacant house at 56 Merline Avenue (the scene of two smaller fires in 1986) burned to the ground on the morning of Sunday, August 3, 1986. Lawrence Road firefighters received the alarm at 3:15 a.m. and arrived to find the building heavily involved. Multiple 1.75-inch handlines were used to attack the blaze. Engine 21-2 from Slackwood Fire Co. assisted at the scene, while Engine 21-3 stood by at Station 22. Lawrence Road personnel remained on scene for four hours.
August 27, 1986
On Wednesday, August 27, 1986, Engine 22-1 was called to Nassau Chemical Co. on Whitehead Road Extension for cascade duties. The following account was printed in the Trenton Times on Thursday, August 28, 1986: “Two chemicals overheated while being mixed yesterday at the Nassau Chemical Corp., resulting in a cloud of smoke and the evacuation of the building for an hour. The reaction did not spark a fire, but 10 employees were taken to Helene Fuld Medical Center. All but one were released after treatment for smoke inhalation. Nassau Chemicals makes chemical mixtures that are used by other manufacturers to make products flame retardant, said Leo Whalen, the company’s vice president. He said yesterday’s reaction occurred during the mixing of antimony oxide and decabromobiphenyloxide. ‘They overheated and released a lot of smoke,’ Whalen said. ‘But there was no flame. The whole point is that it won’t burn.’ After the reaction in one section of the building, air samples were taken by the Lawrence hazardous Materials Team and it was decided to evacuate 50 employees from the rest of the plant. Three township fire companies responded to the building on Whitehead Road Extension when smoke was reported at 11:38 a.m., and firefighters remained at the scene about two hours, according to John Coleman, 2nd Assistant Chief of the Prospect Heights Fire Co.”
September 8, 1986
During the company meeting on Monday, September 8, 1986, “President Joe Simonelli reported for a new chief’s car. He said they got a price from Coleman Oldsmobile on a 1986 Delta for $12,800 at 4.4 percent interest. Payments are $228.59. Chief Ted Clemen reported that other cars were looked into, including state bid cars, and he said he did not recommend them. A motion was made by Rick Farletta to purchase the car from Coleman. Approved by the floor. Bob Hazen suggested we try to get an extended warranty if possible…”
October 13, 1986
During the company meeting on Monday, October 13, 1986, John Barone resigned as secretary. Patrick Quill was later elected to fill the post. Also during the meeting, under the recreation committee report, “Rick Farletta reported he had won the ‘Chilli Cook-Off’ that was held at the Hyatt for a prize of $200.”
October 16, 1986
At 12:16 p.m. on Thursday, October 16, 1986, Lawrence Road Fire Co. was sent to assist Lawrenceville firefighters extinguish a fire on Fackler Road. The following account was printed in the Trenton Times on Friday, October 17, 1986: “An early afternoon blaze, ignited by a faulty gas heater valve, caused moderate damage to a Fackler Road house yesterday. Jane Pettit was at home when the fire began shortly after 12:15 p.m. and escaped uninjured, said Kevin Reading, Lawrenceville Fire Co. assistant chief. Most of the damage occurred in a second-floor bathroom, Reading said. The fire was declared under control within 30 minutes of the firefighters’ arrival. Pettit told fire officials she saw smoke coming from an upstairs heating vent and went to the basement to investigate. By the time she arrived in the basement, the smoke alarm had sounded and there were flames in the furnace room. The second-floor bathroom was damaged when flames went up the outside of the house’s chimney. The rest of the house sustained smoke damage. Firefighters from Lawrenceville, Lawrence Road and Slackwood responded.”
December 21, 1986
One of the darkest days in the history of Lawrence Road Fire Co. occurred on Sunday, December 21, 1986, when a fierce blaze broke out and destroyed the kitchen and hall attached to the firehouse. A Slackwood Fire Police Officer, Walter Lukaszewski, died of a heart attack during the fire and Lawrence Road Firefighters Tim Kasony Sr. and John Barone were overcome by smoke. The blaze, which was of undetermined origin, began in the kitchen. It was discovered shortly before 4:20 a.m. after the building fire alarm system, designed by ex-Chief Linton Reed Jr., activated the siren atop the roof of the firehouse. As the siren continued to blow, Lawrence Road members realized to their horror that the firehouse was on fire. The blaze was under control by about 5 a.m. (Editor’s Note: In 1988, Lawrence Road Fire Co. borrowed $325,000 from the National Community Bank to finance rebuilding.)
The following details were included in the incident report written by Capt. Alan Laird: “Some members of the fire company were alerted to a problem with the siren and responded to the building to find a working fire in the building with flames venting out the roof over the kitchen. The rest of the company’s members and two additional companies (Slackwood and Lawrenceville) were dispatched at 0420 hours. The initial attack consisted of one 1.75-inch handline through the engine room to the banquet hall, one 1.75-inch handline through the engine room to the kitchen, and one 1.75-inch handline to the second floor. Ventilation was accomplished by opening of windows, doors, garage doors, and cutting of holes in the roof over the kitchen, banquet hall and second floor. The fire was quickly knocked down and extensive overhaul operations were performed. Damage consisted of total destruction to the hallway, kitchen, bar, and associated equipment, and there was heavy damage done to the banquet hall. There was structural damage done to the roof over the kitchen, bar, hallway and banquet hall. There was damage to electrical equipment and smoke damage throughout the building. The burn lines were low to the floor in the kitchen and bar area. Damage to the roof and wall structures indicated that the fire moved upwards to the northwest and vented itself out through the roof. Fire also extended into the hallway and banquet hall. Most of the fire was high in the ceiling area...”
The following story was printed in the Trentonian on Monday, December 22, 1986: “A Lawrence Township fire policeman died and two firefighters were injured responding to an early morning alarm at Lawrence Road Fire Co. yesterday and the response time may have been quicker than usual because the fire was in the firehouse. ‘The response to the fire was real good by our department because our smoke alarms are hooked directly into the fire siren,’ said Lawrence Road Fire Chief Ted Clemen. The fire, which was brought under control in about 40 minutes, was contained to the kitchen and banquet hall, Clemen said. ‘There was heavy smoke and water damage throughout the firehouse but there was no damage sustained to the fire equipment and the fire company is in full service and able to respond to all fire alarms,’ he said.
“Walter Lukaszewski, a longtime member of the Slackwood Fire Co. and captain of the Mercer County Fire Police, ‘collapsed at the scene and was transported to Helene Fuld Medical Center and was pronounced dead at the hospital,’ Clemen said. John Barone and Tim Kasony Sr. were injured while fighting the fire, Clemen said. Both suffered from smoke inhalation and were taken to Helene Fuld Medical Center. A nursing supervisor said Barone was treated and released and Kasony was admitted but in stable condition last night. Clemen said fires in firehouse are not all that uncommon, but the chief would not speculate how the blaze began. ‘The fire in under investigation by county and township officials and they’re be here bright and early in the morning to check it out,’ Clemen said last night. ‘The area has been sealed off.’ In addition to Lawrence Road and Slackwood fire companies, Ewing Township’s Pennington Road department and the Lawrence First Aid Squad responded to the alarm, which was called in at 4:20 a.m., Clemen said. Although the fire was pronounced under control at 5 a.m., firemen remained on the scene throughout the day attempting to clean up the debris.”
The following are statements recorded on the day of the fire by some of the first members on the scene:
James Yates – “I heard the firehouse siren blowing for quite a while and realized that it may have been the firehouse fire alarm. When I arrived, to the best of my knowledge, no one else was at the firehouse. I opened and unlocked the southwest engine room door. Smoke was about waist level in the engine room and there was popping and sounds of burning on the hall side of the building. At about that time the police were paging Chief Clemen to look into the fire siren blowing. I attempted to call the police numerous times on both F-1 and F-3 but they did not answer. At this time, Officer Bill Eggert of the Lawrence Township Police Department arrived. I told him to have the dispatcher blow out the township fire companies for a fire in our firehouse. Chief Clemen and past-Chief Reed arrived at that time. I told Chief Clemen that I was going to start removing the apparatus from the building. I removed Engine 22-3 from the engine room and place it in the firehouse parking lot. I then returned to the firehouse, put on my turnout gear and then laid a 4-inch line with Engine 22-2, which was on the ramp, to the fire hydrant at the corner of Lawrence Road and Marlboro Road.”
Charles Commini – “Upon arrival at the scene, I was in my car at the corner of Route 206 and Altamawr Avenue. I radioed back to Lawrence Control, ‘We have a heavy smoke condition.’ At least one truck (was out) and another was on it’s way out of the engine room. I ran through the engine room to the door for the hall because I could see a glow in the sky above the hall when I was in my car. I opened the door to the hall and saw flames coming from the ceiling of the bar. One of our captains, Pat Kent, came to the door and tried to open it. I slammed it shut on him and told him to get a line. I also told him where the fire was. Tim Kasony also came to the door and tried to open it. I pulled him back too. He had boots, coat, but no helmet. Pat Kent got the handline and I went outside to get Lawrenceville’s trucks set up.”
Patrick Kent – “When I arrived the trucks were being pulled out onto the ramp. I went to the door to the hall, opened to door and closed it. I went to the engine and pulled off hose and went to the hall door and opened it and saw no fire. I went to the rear of the building and opened windows.”
Tim Marsh – “I arrived at the firehouse and saw that there was one truck left in the engine room (Engine 22-2). I pulled that truck onto the ramp and left it running. After pulling the truck out, I went over and put my turnout gear on. I then went to the door leading to the hall to give Pat Kent a hand with the line. We entered the hall and saw no fire behind the bar. But we shot some water on the ceiling and Pat Kent said he was going out to open the windows. After Pat Kent left to open windows, I stayed in the doorway. Then, John Barone and Tim Kasony came to the door with masks on and relieved me so I could go put on a mask.”
John Zita – “On the night of the Lawrence Road firehouse fire, I woke up to the sound of the siren blowing. Then my pager, which is an officer’s pager, went off. I got dressed and went to the firehouse. It took about five minutes to reach the fire house. I pulled into McGrath’s parking lot. Chief Clemen was standing on the ramp. I ran across the street and Fireman Kasony ran out of the middle bay door with an air pack on his back and a face shield in his hand. We both ran up to the chief at the same time. Kasony pulled on the chief and asked him what he wanted him to do. The chief told Kasony and I to get a line off the truck and go to the upstairs of the firehouse. Kasony turned to me and asked me to turn his mask on. At this time, several firemen came and I told Kasony he had enough help with the line and I was going back out to do traffic duty. I left and went to Gainsboro Road to direct traffic.”
John Barone – “I was awakened by the pager. I then responded to the firehouse. I ran into the engine room and to my gear, noticing at the same time Tim Kasony preparing to enter the hall from the engine room with a 1.75-inch line. Firefighter Kasony was wearing a 4.5 air apparatus. I proceeded to put my gear on and donned No. 4 mask next to my gear. I then proceeded to backup Kasony on the line. We entered the hall, noticing fire coming out of the bar and fire in front of us. Tim hit the fire above us and in the bar and proceeded further into the hall. At this time, Firefighter Marsh joined us on the line. Captain Marsh yelled to me to back out because he thought the roof or the ceiling was coming down. I in turn relayed the message to Kasony and we began to back the line out. Kasony said there was something wrong with his mask. Just what was wrong I don’t know. But I noticed him playing with the start-up valve on the regulator. Kasony apparently fixed the problem and we started back into the hall. He hit the bar area again, this time putting the nozzle into the bar area and knocking it pretty good. We proceeded further in. We were next to the door leading from the hallway near the kitchen to the hall when Kasony yelled for more line. I turned and yelled to Marsh and he started giving me line. When I turned back to Kasony he was lying face up, unconscious. I tried to wake him but he was out cold. I started to drag him but he was wrapped up in the line. Yelling to Marsh, I told him Kasony was down and he proceeded to help me get him out. We moved Kasony a couple of feet when he came to. He said he was okay, and then went unconscious again. I sent Marsh for help and grabbed Kasony in a nelson to drag him out. I started backing out and he came to again, this time in a fit. I don’t know if he got scared or what but he started swinging his arms and struggling. During this mishap, I lost my helmet and face piece and my right hand glove. I passed Kasony onto someone else. I then proceeded to where we left the line because the fire was starting to roll again. I hit the fire above me and all over while backing out. I made it to the door of the hall. That’s when I was overcome.”
January 5, 1987
On January 5, 1987, Lawrence Road Secretary Patrick Quill sent letters to the Slackwood, Lawrenceville and Pennington Road fire companies, and Lawrence First Aid Squad, Lawrence police and Signal 22, thanking them for their services during the fire at the firehouse on December 21, 1986.
February 7, 1987
At 11:54 p.m. on Saturday, February 7, 1987, the Lawrence Road Fire Co. was first on the scene after a car crashed off Whitehead Road into the Assunpink Creek. Lawrence Road firefighters made a valiant but unsuccessful effort to rescue a passenger trapped in the submerged car. The following story was printed in the Trenton Times on Monday, February 9, 1987:
“An 18-year-old Hamilton Township man died yesterday from injuries suffered when the car he was traveling in crashed through a guardrail on the Whitehead Road bridge and landed on its roof in the Assunpink Creek just before midnight Saturday, police said. The driver of the car was later charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol and reckless driving, police said. The driver and another passenger were also injured in the accident. Gregory Mahalik of Collins Road in Hamilton was pronounced dead at Helene Fuld Medical Center in Trenton at 1:40 a.m., police said. Mahalik was suffering from multiple trauma at the time of his death. Douglas Theberge, 18, of Monroe Avenue in Hamilton, was arrested in connection with the accident, said Patrolman John Simonelli. Theberge was treated for minor injuries at Helene Fuld and released yesterday. Kimberly Byrne, 18, of Hamilton, was in stable condition at Mercer Medical Center last night, suffering from a concussion and back injury.
“Theberge was the driver of a 1974 mid-sized car headed east on Whitehead Road, Simonelli said, Byrner and Mahalik were front-seat passengers. The car was in a group with two other cars which each carried Hamilton teenagers. The group had been at a local bowling alley. Simonelli said Theberge apparently pulled into the westbound lane and tried to pass at least one of the other cars near the Whitehead Road bridge at 11:54 p.m. Saturday. Driving at a high rate of speed, Theberge lost control and struck a curb, Simonelli said. The car then crashed through a guardrail just before the bridge and flipped over. The car landed on its roof just below the falls in the Assunpink Creek, Simonelli said. Four unidentified Hamilton teenagers in the other tow cars jumped into the creek and pulled Theberge and Byrne from the car, Simonelli said. Mahalik was trapped in the car and could not be freed by the teenagers. Rescue workers and firefighters arrived on the scene and freed Mahalik...”
February 9, 1987
A fire involving a tank car full of phosphorous in a railroad yard in Falls Township, Pa., prompted a mutual aid response from Lawrence Road Fire Co. on Monday, February 9, 1987. Station 22 was dispatched at 7:19 a.m. and remained on scene more than 12 hours until 8:50 p.m. Engine 22-3 participated in a water relay, while Engine 22-1 responded with extra manpower. The following story was printed in the Trenton Times on Tuesday, February 10, 1987:
“A tank car filled with 100 tons of white phosphorous burned out of control for more than five hours in the Conrail freightyards off Lower Morrisville Road in Falls yesterday morning, forcing the evacuation of an estimated 1,500 nearby residents. At one point, the fire threatened another nearby tank car containing highly explosive chlorine, but the car was moved in a valiant effort by an unidentified Conrail crewman and the township fire marshal, Ray Forrestal. More than 150 firefighters from Bucks County and neighboring New Jersey municipalities were pressed into service to battle the blaze. Roads near the fire, including Routes 1 and 13 and Tyburn Road, were closed until 1 p.m. ‘There were areas on Lower Morrisville Road where you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face,’ Forrestal said.
“Although firemen quickly responded to the alarm, it took nearly 90 minutes for them to stretch hoses from fire hydrants in Morrisville, at least a mile away. The fire finally was extinguished shortly after noon. The water pumping delay, Forrestal said, was due to an inadequate water supply in the railyard. If water had been more readily available, the fire could have been put out sooner, he said. ‘It would have helped,’ Forrestal said at a news conference. ‘I wish we had a lot more hydrants back there.’ The few that are there, he said, are ‘useless in a case like this.’ The fire involved one tank car, but the situation could have been far worse had the second tank car, containing the chlorine, also caught fire. The chlorine tank car was moved by the Conrail employee and fire marshal using a switch engine. The tank car sustained only minor exterior damage. Asked afterward about the maneuver, Forrestal responded, ‘I was praying.’ Some nearby rail cars contained corn syrup, which also posed a hazard, but other cars on adjacent tracks were empty.
“Fire officials said they were most concerned with preventing an explosion in the chlorine car. Had the chlorine car exploded, said Falls police Sgt. Charles Schaffner, ‘we would have had to evacuate a 20-mile radius.’ That would have meant evacuating all of Lower Bucks County, much of Mercer County, and parts of north Philadelphia. Officials said high winds, blowing in a southwesterly direction, helped prevent the situation from worsening. The winds dissipated the smoke cloud and helped carry it away from the most heavily-populated areas. Residents of Falls Township’s Nottingham and Pennwood Crossing sections, and workers in the Penn-Warner and Worthington industrial parks were evacuated shortly after the fire started at 6:50 a.m. Two motorists were injured in an accident caused by the smoke, and two firefighters were injured fighting the blaze. Forrestal said the burning tank car was the fourth car in a row of five tank cars. On the track next to it was another set of five tank cars, four containing corn syrup and the one filled with chlorine. An estimated 25 fire companies responded to the fire from as far as Wrightstown, Pa., said Falls Fire Chief Bill Devine...”
March 9, 1987
The following account was printed in the Trenton Times on Monday, March 9, 1987: “A home under construction at the Tiffany Woods complex on Spruce Street was heavily damaged by fire yesterday, fire officials said. While firefighters were battling the blaze at the housing development, they spotted another fire in a van in the nearby parking lot of the J&D Dismantling Co. Officials said the fires may have been related and both are suspicious. A guard on duty at the 28-acre Tiffany Woods complex between Spruce Street and Betts Avenue saw flames coming from the building’s second-floor window and reported the fire at 12:34 a.m., Slackwood Fire Chief Dale Robbins said. ‘As soon as I hit the Brunswick Circle, I could see flames shooting through the roof’ of the unoccupied building, Robbins said. Firefighters were slowed in reaching the burning building because the development’s access road was not completely paved, Robbins said. Fire engines could not travel on the muddy roadway and the first eight firefighters who tried to lay fire hose by hand ‘got bogged down in mud literally up to their waists,’ Robbins said. ‘We had to pull them out.’ More than 200 homes are planned for the Tiffany Woods development but only a few of the buildings are under construction, Robbins said. Firefighters from the Slackwood and Lawrence Road fire companies extinguished the blaze within an hour after manually running about 800 feet of fire hose from the fire trucks to the building, Robbins said. Slackwood Firefighter Ken Mitchell was treated at Mercer Medical Center for a cut hand he suffered while fighting the blaze, Robbins said. He was later released. While still on the scene, firefighters spotted a van on fire just after 3 a.m. at the dismantling company on Princeton Avenue. The Lawrenceville Fire Co. extinguished that blaze. ‘We think both fires are related,’ Robbins said. ‘Both are suspicious and they didn’t just start by themselves.’ ”
March 23, 1987
During the company meeting held on Monday, March 23, 1987, it was announced that Charles Commini had resigned as deputy chief. As a result of the resignation, John Fleming automatically moved up to deputy chief and James Yates moved up to assistant chief. An election was held and Alan Laird was elected battalion chief.
April 6, 1987
A tanker carrying butane crashed and exploded on Interstate 295 at Route 1 on the afternoon of Monday, April 6, 1987. Lawrence Road firefighters were among the first on the scene of the horrific blaze, which burned many innocent motorists who were caught in the bleve. The following account was printed in the Trenton Times on Tuesday, April 7, 1987:
“A truck carrying more than 8,000 gallons of highly flammable butane flipped off an Interstate 295 exit ramp bridge last night, exploded moments later, injuring at least seven people and touching off an inferno at the heavily used interchange of I-295 and Route 1. Injured motorists lay dazed and bleeding in several areas around the maze of curling highways, while firefighters poured water and foam onto the truck from the bridge above it in an effort to prevent further explosions. The injured were transported to area hospitals, while one man with serious burns was transferred by helicopter to the burn center at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston.
“Witnesses said the initial blast sent a fireball 200 feet into the air. Two hours later, 20- to 30-foot flames continued to leap from the tanker, illuminating the strangely empty highways. The blaze finally was doused at about 10 p.m., although firefighters on the scene late last night said scattered small fires continued to burn in the woods nearby. The truck, southbound on I-295, had attempted to take the exit ramp to Route 1 south when the accident occurred. After the crash, the mangled cab of the truck was wedged precariously against the bridge’s guardrail some 60 yards from the burning butane-laden tank. The driver, Gerardo Garcia, 24, of Irvington, was stretched out, streaked with mud and blood, some 20 feet from his cab. Witnesses said he and others caught in the blast ran burning from their vehicles into two nearby waterways, the Delaware and Raritan Canal and the Shipetaukin Creek.
“Below the cab, on a ramp off of Route 1 south, Robert Moore, 34, of Skillman, stood beside his van, soaking wet, his face and what was left of his hair caked with mud. David Parris, 43, and his wife, Susan, 37, both of Trenton, lay wrapped in blankets and wearing oxygen masks, on the shoulder of I-295, some 100 yards from where the truck was blazing. Cars even further away stood empty and burned. ‘After the explosion there was fire everywhere,’ said Joe Hubler, a passing motorist who said he and another had pulled Moore from the creek. ‘You couldn’t breathe and you could smell burning flesh and wood – all the trees and grass around here were on fire,’ Hubler said, pointing to a scorched area below the bridge. ‘I ran up to the ramp to where I caw the van and then I heard people yelling from the water.’
“According to Sgt. John McCormick at the scene last night, some motorists had gotten out of their cars to help Garcia. Butane had leaked from the truck, McCormick said, then ignited, turning the area into a raging caldron. ‘They got badly burned because they were out of their cars when it lit up,’ McCormick said. ‘Just heat from all the passing vehicles would have been enough to set it off. When it did go, people were trapped. Apparently, there was a wall of fire all the way across 295,’ McCormick said. John Philhower said the explosion rocked his Route 1 Exxon station a half-mile away. ‘I saw napalm in Vietnam and it was nothing like the fire I saw when I got here,’ Philhower said. Pandemonium followed the crash as fire and rescue vehicles scrambled through the traffic to cool off the burning truck and aid the injured.
“While firefighters set up their apparatus about 25 feet above the chemical truck, police units tried to seal off the area. From all around came the sound of screeching tires and collisions as motorists stopped to look at the spectacular flames. Route 1 eventually was closed from Franklin Corner Road to Quakerbridge Road and I-295 was closed from Route 206 to Sloan Avenue in Hamilton. The danger of further explosions preoccupied firefighters. At first, it was believed the container was separated into compartments and the fire might trigger another explosion. Thus, water was poured on the burning tanker to keep it cool until foam trucks dispatched from Mercer County Airport arrived. According to firefighters on the scene, the foam would serve to smother the flames. Firefighters later determined that the truck, owned by Ritter Transportation in Rahway, was a single compartment tanker containing 8,073 gallons of butane. The combination of water and foam finally extinguished the fire just before 10 p.m. ‘We didn’t want to put out a fire like this,’ said Lawrenceville Fire Chief Kevin Reading, who directed firefighting operations. ‘All we could do was pour on the water and the ‘A-Triple-F’ foam to keep it cool and let it burn out.’
“Police from Lawrence, West Windsor, Hamilton, Ewing, and Princeton Township were called to assist, according to Lawrence Police Chief William Seabridge. Firefighting units from Lawrence, West Windsor, Ewing, Hamilton, Trenton, and Hopewell Township were also dispatched. ‘It looked like an atomic bomb,’ said Tony Maro, 16, a passenger in a car that was several car-lengths behind the tanker when it exploded. Maro said he and a friend saw the tanker round a curve ‘and then we saw it explode. Then it lit again and it went all over the highway.’ Flames from the explosion caught State Police Sgt. Walter Perski as he ran from his car, Maro said. ‘We saw him running and then all of a sudden the flame kicked and caught him.’ Maro said he and his friend, Susan Hellberg, who were headed to an emergency medical technician training class, ran to Perski's aid and covered him with a blanket. ‘His face and his back were steaming,’ Maro said. ‘Everything was burning: his back, his buttocks, his legs, his face. He said he was just driving by when he heard the explosion and ran from his car. He said he was feeling fine, but I assume he was in shock.’
“Four of the injured were taken to The Medical Center at Princeton. According to a nursing supervisor, one was flown to the burn center, another was admitted in fair condition with first- and second-degree burns of the face and two were treated for burns and released. The injured were: Perski, 41, of South Amboy, a trooper assigned to the state police headquarters in West Trenton, suffered third-degree burns over 45 percent of his body and was listed in critical condition last night at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton.
“A hospital spokeswoman said Perski was burned on his face, hands, torso, and upper legs. Moore was listed in fair condition at Hamilton Hospital with first- and second-degree burns, and Garcia was listed in fair condition with superficial facial burns at Helene Fuld Medical Center, nursing supervisors said last night. Stephen Ebersol, 28, of Plainsboro, who suffered second-degree burns to over 50 to 60 percent of his body, was transported from The Medical Center at Princeton to the burn unit of St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston. David Parrish was treated for first-degree burns of the hands and face and was released from The Medical Center at Princeton. Susan Parrish, who suffered first-degree burns of the h ands and face, was admitted to The Medical Center in good condition. An unidentified 17-year-old youth was treated for burns of the hands and face and was released from The Medical Center.
April 14, 1987
A chemical fire occurred inside a second-floor laboratory at the Union Camp facility on Princeton Pike on Tuesday, April 14, 1987. Station 22 was dispatched at 5:09 p.m. and responded with all three engines. The incident was completed at 9:38 p.m. The Trenton Times printed this story on Wednesday, April 15, 1987: “A small fire broke out yesterday afternoon in a refrigeration unit containing chemicals and solvents at the Union Camp Technology Center on Princeton Pike, forcing the evacuation of about 40 workers. The fire began just before 5 p.m. in a second-floor laboratory. The 60 firefighters from the Lawrenceville, Lawrence Road, and Slackwood fire companies who responded to the alarm discovered ‘a lot of thick black smoke,’ according to Kevin Reading, Lawrenceville fire chief. Reading said the fire was extinguished in less than 15 minutes but the potential hazardous smoke remained in the building. The plant’s ventilation was inoperable since firefighters had to temporarily disconnect power at the building, Reading said. Parts of the first and second floors sustained substantial smoke and water damage, Reading said. He said that although the contaminated water in the building would lead to an expensive cleanup effort, the Hazardous Materials Response Team from the township found no cause for alarm…”
July 7, 1987
The audio-visual room at Lawrence High School was gutted by flames on Tuesday, July 7, 1987. Lawrence Road firefighters were alerted to the fire at 11:27 a.m. and used a 1.75-inch handling to extinguish the blaze. The following account was printed in the Trenton Times on Wednesday, July 8, 1987: “A late morning blaze gutted the audio-visual room at Lawrence High School on Princeton Pike yesterday, destroying video cameras, monitors and a library of video cassettes. The fire, apparently caused by an overheated hot plate, left one firefighter suffering from heat exhaustion. He was taken to Helene Fuld Medical Center, where he was treated and released, said James Yates, assistant chief of Lawrence Road Fire Co. Although the room in the basement of the school was unoccupied when the fire started, a handful of people were evacuated from the building when the fire alarm sounded. A hot plate that had been turned on at 10:30 a.m. and accidentally left on started the fire, Yates said. The alarm was called in just before 11:30 a.m. and the fire was declared under control within 30 minutes, he added. ‘Most of the equipment was destroyed,’ Yates said. ‘The room was gutted but there was no damage to the upstairs classroom.’ ”
August 11, 1987
A fatal motor vehicle accident occurred on Lawrence Road in the early morning hours of Tuesday, August 11, 1987. Station 22 was dispatched to the crash at 1:02 a.m. The Trenton Times published the following account on Wednesday, August 12, 1987: “A former Trenton police officer was killed and another man was injured yesterday morning when their sports car ran off Route 206 and struck a tree. Barry Lewis, 30, of Lawrenceville, who police said was the owner and operator of the car, was killed in the crash just before 1 a.m. A witness told police that Lewis attempted to pass another car while traveling at a high speed in the northbound lane of Route 206 near Brearley Avenue. Lewis apparently lost control of the car and went through the southbound lane, struck a curb, and hit a tree, police said. It then flipped onto its passenger side and Lewis and his passenger were thrown from the car when two detachable roof panels flew off. The passenger, Bobby Scott, 20, of Lawrenceville, was transported to Helene Fuld Medical Center, where he was in stable condition in the intensive care unit last night. Lewis had been a patrolman with the Trenton Police Department for approximately four years before his resignation in 1985…”
November 21, 1987
The Hopewell Township home of a Trenton police officer was gutted by a fire on Saturday, November 21, 1987. At 9:18 p.m. Engine 22-1 was dispatched for cascade duties and Engine 22-3 was sent to help in a water shuttle. The following account was printed in the Trenton Times on Monday, November 23, 1987: “The cause of a fire that resulted in an estimated $250,000 in damage to a Trenton police lieutenant’s home remained under investigation yesterday. The fire broke out just after 8:30 p.m. Saturday in the ranch-style home of Trenton Lt. Daniel McKee on Plymouth Street, according to Hopewell Patrolman Douglas Pelcz. McKee, his wife, and three children were not home when the fire erupted, and no firefighters were injured, Pelcz said. Pennington Fire Chief Charles L. Marciante said last night that firefighters arrived on the scene at 8:55 p.m. and had the flames under control within 45 minutes. ‘The flames were jumping up out of the roof when we got there,’ according to Hopewell Fire Chief Dave Van Doren. Firefighters were able to contain the flames to save the family room and garage, according to Van Doren. The Pennington and Hopewell fire departments fought the blaze with assistance from seven other local fire companies, who helped shuttle in water to fight the flames, Marciante said. Fire investigators returned to the scene yesterday morning and established that the flames broke out in or near the bed in the master bedroom, Mercer County Assistant Fire Marshal James Greschak. Marciante called earlier reports that firefighters were delayed in their efforts as they set up the water shuttle operation with the assisting fire companies ‘ridiculous.’ ‘There was plenty of water there. But the high winds and cold temperatures made it hell for the firemen,’ Marciante said. The Pennington and Hopewell fire companies were assisted in the water shuttle by the Titusville, Pennington Road, West Trenton, Mercer County Airport, Lawrenceville, Lawrence Road, and Montgomery fire companies.”
December 11, 1987
A Princeton University eating club was the scene of a fire to which Lawrence Road firefighters were called in on mutual aid on Friday, December 11, 1987. Lawrence Road was dispatched at 6:48 p.m. and responded with Engine 22-1. Lawrence Road firefighters assisted in fire suppression, ventilation and cascade duties. The were back at Station 22 by 9:55 p.m. The Trenton Times documented the blaze with this story published Saturday, December 12, 1987: “Two students were left homeless last night homeless last night after a fire severely damaged a Princeton University eating club, according to fire officials. No injuries were reported. The fire broke out in the basement of the Terrace Club on Washington Street just before 6 p.m., according to Princeton Fire Chief Ken Rendell. In all, 50 firefighters from five companies were called and managed to bring the fire under control by 8:15 p.m. Rendell said the entire club, a three-story, mock-Tudor building, had extensive smoke damage and that the basement and parts of the first and second floors were extensively damaged by the flames. At Princeton, only club officers live at eating clubs, which are independent of the university.”