January 17, 1995
At 10:21 a.m. on Tuesday, January 17, 1995, an engine from Station 22 was dispatched mutual aid to the scene of a house fire at 30 Pennwood Drive in Ewing Township. Lawrence Road firefighters laid 800 feet of 4-inch supply hose and vented the roof of the fire building. They also assisted in salvage and overhaul and did not return to Station 22 until 12:06 p.m. The Trenton Times printed this account on Wednesday,
January 18, 1995
“An elderly invalid and his son fled yesterday morning as flames rapidly enveloped the interior of their well-maintained Cape Cod-style home. Jim Evanko, 38, said his father, George, was talking to Public Service Electric & Gas Co. about electric service problems they had been having at their home on Pennwood Drive. Mandy Ciccone, a neighbor who heard yelling at the Evanko home at about 10:30 a.m., said ‘Jim (Evanko) was trying to get his father out of the house and he was calling 911 at the same time.’ She said she helped Jim Evanko, a senior corrections officer at Trenton State Prison, get his father out of the house, then noticed the flames. George Evanko, 73, who is retired from the General Motors Inland Fisher Guide plant, was given oxygen and taken to Mercer Medical Center. A hospital spokesman said he was in stable condition late yesterday.
“Pennington Road Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Paul F. Rulkiewicz said the fire began in the elder Evanko's first-floor rear bedroom. George Evanko ‘woke up and realized there was no power and called PSE&G. He found the circuit breakers were tripped and when he threw them on, they tripped again. Then his son smelled the smoke.’ Rulkiewicz said PSE&G ‘didn’t do any work there in the last couple of days. We found the service-visit slip on the door.’ One firefighter was treated at the scene for debris in his eye, Rulkiewicz said. Firefighters from West Trenton, Pennington Road and Prospect Heights Lawrence Road, Slackwood, Hopewell, Pennington and Lawrenceville fire companies and Trenton Fire Department responded.”
February 20, 1995
Flames erupted in the heating room of one of the units at the Meadow Woods Apartments on Monday, February 20, 1995. Station 22 was dispatched at 12:19 p.m. to assist Slackwood Fire Co. Lawrence Road firefighters were on scene until 1:20 p.m. The Trenton Times printed this story on Tuesday, February 21, 1995: “A clothing fire in the heating room of an apartment was extinguished before it could spread through the rest of the building yesterday, fire officials said. No one was injured and two cats inside the apartment were rescued, Fire Chief Jack Oakley of the Slackwood Fire Company said. Firefighters arrived at Meadow Woods Apartments at 423 Lawrence Road at 12:22 p.m. The resident of apartment 602 was home at the time of the incident and called the fire department when she smelled smoke. The fire started when the hot water heater kicked on and some combustible items stored close to the heater ignited clothing, according to Detective Bill Eggert of the township police and the Mercer County Fire Marshal's office, who conducted the investigation. Lawrence Road Fire Co. assisted.”
March 30, 1995
Lawrence Road Firefighter Michael Byrd slipped while boarding an engine on Thursday, March 30, 1995, after Station 22 was dispatched at 11 a.m. to a possible structure fire at the Meadow Woods Apartments. When units arrived they found the fire out, with a medium smoke condition in a first-floor apartment. A plumber soldering a bathroom pipe inadvertently ignited some insulation in a wall. Damage was minor and Lawrence Road firefighters were back at Station 22 by noon. Firefighter Byrd refused medical attention.
April 26, 1995
At 1:52 p.m. on Wednesday, April 26, 1995, an engine from the Lawrence Road Fire Co. was dispatched to stand by at the Pennington Road firehouse. At 2:10 p.m. the Lawrence Road engine was relocated to the scene of a fire on the campus of Trenton State College to assist with manpower. The Trenton Times printed this account on Thursday, April 27, 1995: “An electrical fire near the roof of a building under renovation at Trenton State College yesterday afternoon caused several thousands of dollars worth of damage, school and fire officials said. The fire broke out at Armstrong Hall at 1:45 p.m and was contained by 2:20 p.m. It was caused by an electrical short in an area between the top-floor ceiling and the roof, said Paul Rulkiewicz, chief of the Pennington Road Fire Co. in Ewing. The building houses the Engineering Science and Technology Education departments. Except for one meeting in progress, the building was empty at the time of the fire, school officials said. Fire companies from Ewing and Lawrence responded.”
April 30, 1995
At 8:46 p.m. on Sunday, April 30, 1995, Engine 22-3 was dispatched to stand by at the Pennington Road firehouse. At 9:23 p.m., Engine 22-3 was relocated to the scene of a working warehouse fire on Spruce Street and pumped to Engine 14-2 as part of a relay supplying Ladder Tower 51. This report was printed in the Trenton Times on Monday, May 1, 1995:
“For the second time in five months, a suspicious multiple-alarm fire ripped through a warehouse on Spruce Street, this time gutting the part of the structure saved from damage during the first blaze, officials said. One firefighter was injured and taken to Helene Fuld Medical Center, officials said. Fire crews were still operating around 11 p.m. last night and were expected to remain on the scene for several more hours as county fire marshals – who have ruled the fire suspicious – began their investigation, said Chief William G. Erney of the Prospect Heights Fire Co.
“Firefighters were called to the building – located at the corner of Spruce and Fourth streets – about 8:36 p.m. when smoke was reported in the area, officials said. When firefighters arrived they immediately called for additional manpower and equipment, and eventually more than 60 firefighters responded. Crews initially sent inside the building to battle the blaze were called back out after about 20 minutes when the roof and walls of the building began to crack, Erney said. Just minutes later, the roof fell in. Fire crews then began an exterior attack, using four aerial ladders and several hoses to pour water from above.
“On December 2, 1994, more than 100 firefighters were needed to control a four-alarm blaze in the front portion of the building. The rear part of the warehouse – which once housed an automotive shop – was saved from severe damage. It was that back portion of the building that was gutted last night. Both fires are considered suspicious in origin by investigators, Erney said. Ewing Mayor Al Bridges, who was on the scene last night, said ownership of the building recently reverted to the township after its previous owner declared bankruptcy. ‘It will be demolished and the land used in some way to benefit the township,’ he said. All three township fire companies – Prospect Heights, Pennington Road and West Trenton – battled the blaze. Assisting were members of the Slackwood, Lawrence Road, Pennington, Enterprise, and Hamilton fire companies.”
May 7, 1995
A stubborn brush fire broke out along the railroad tracks near Lawrence Station Road on Sunday, May 7, 1995. At 12:30 p.m., Lawrence Road Fire Co. was dispatched to send one engine to cover Station 23. But at 12:59 p.m., Chief 23 requested that Engines 22-2 and 22-3 responded to the scene to help fight the brush fire. Lawrence Road firefighters operated on the scene until 4 p.m. An engine from Prospect Heights Fire Co. stood by at Station 22 during the incident. The Trenton Times published this story on Monday, May 8, 1994:
“A large field fire straddling the Northeast Corridor railroad tracks raged out of control for several hours yesterday afternoon, consuming more than 20 acres before a battalion of firefighters from several companies was able to douse it, officials said. Firefighters from Lawrenceville Fire Co. were alerted to the blaze about 12:09 p.m. when a Lawrence police dispatcher received an anonymous 911 call reporting a fire in the woods on Lawrence Station Road opposite to the Mercer County Fire Service Training Center, police said. The flames quickly grew, fanned by a strong wind, and spread across both sides of the Amtrak railroad tracks there, consuming trees and undergrowth in a small fire storm. Additional firefighters and equipment were called in to attack the blaze from the opposite side of the tracks, just behind the Lawrence Square Village apartment complex, officials said.
“Amtrak was contacted and requested to reduce the speed of its trains so that fire crews operating along the tracks would not be in danger. This request also reduced the possibility that an updraft – caused by a passing train – would fan the fire, officials said. Nonetheless, the blaze had no impact upon Amtrak's operations and caused no trains to be delayed, according to railroad spokesman Richard Remington. Soot-covered firefighters fought the flames along the railroad lines from Quakerbridge Road to Youngs Road for several hours before bringing the fire under control. Firefighters estimated the area involved was more than 20 acres. It was not until about 4:30 p.m. that the last firefighters left the scene. There were no reported injuries. The cause of the fire was under investigation, officials said. The Slackwood, Lawrence Road, Prospect Heights, Pennington Road, Pennington Borough, Princeton Junction, Mercerville, Hamilton, Nottingham, and Colonial fire companies were all called out for the fire.”
May 8, 1995
A fierce fire in Building Eight of the Eggerts Crossing Village apartment complex at 175 Johnson Avenue was reported to the Lawrence Road and Slackwood fire companies at 10:47 p.m. on Monday, May 8, 1995. Heavy fire was showing when the first apparatus, Engine 22-1, arrived and took up a position at the front of the building. Firefighter Andrew Fosina manned the pump while Deputy Chief Patrick Kent, Capt. James Pidcock and Firefighter Michael Byrd stretched the first handline to attack the flames. Engine 22-3 then arrived and performed a reverse lay to supply Engine 22-1. Meanwhile, Engine 22-2 proceeded to the rear of the building and used a 2.5-inch handline to knock down some of the heavy fire rolling across the exterior. At 10:54 p.m. Chief Patrick Quill struck the second alarm, which sent a full response to the scene from the Lawrenceville Fire Co., along with one engine and a cascade unit from the Pennington Road Fire Co. The fire was declared under control at 11:28 p.m., but Lawrence Road Fire Co. was not back in service from the fire until 1:51 a.m. During the incident, Station 22 was covered by crews from the West Trenton and Hamilton fire companies, Station 21 was covered by an engine from Prospect Heights Fire Co. and Station 23 was covered by an engine from Pennington Fire Co. The following story was printed in the Trenton Times on Wednesday, May 10, 1995:
“Six families were left homeless after a fire apparently started by a carelessly discarded match raced through their apartment building Monday night, fire officials said. The blaze in Building Eight of the Eggerts Crossing Village complex on Johnson Avenue was reported around 10:47 p.m. Monday. When members of the Lawrence Road Fire Co. arrived just three minutes later, ‘the rear of the building was fully involved with fire. Flames were shooting through the roof,’ said Lawrence Road Fire Chief Patrick F. Quill. Firefighters quickly evacuated the entire eight-unit building and began to battle the blaze. Though the fire was concentrated in one of the middle apartments, it quickly began to extend outward in both directions as the flames burned through the thin wooden walls separating the apartments and ran through into the attic, Quill said. ‘Flames were licking across the ceiling when we went in to hit it,’ Lawrence Road Capt. James Pidcock said. ‘It was going good.’
“A second alarm was called at 10:54 p.m., bringing all township firefighters to the scene, as well as mutual aid companies from surrounding towns, Quill said. Fire crews forced their way into one apartment and were able to stop the blaze before it could extend into the rest of the building, Quill said. ‘It was moving fast,’ Quill said. ‘Another couple minutes and we could have lost the entire building.’ The fire was declared under control at 11:28 p.m. but firefighters remained on the scene until 2 a.m. to douse hot spots and clear debris from the apartments, Quill said. Apartment 8E was totally gutted, while apartments 8C and 8F suffered extensive smoke and water damage. Three other apartments also suffered some form of smoke, heat or water damage, and the entire roof of the building was damaged by fire, Quill said. Quill said the building can not be re-occupied until an extensive investigation by the township's building, safety and health inspectors is made. The displaced families intended to stay with area relatives and friends, police said.
“An initial investigation by Mercer County fire marshals ruled the blaze originated in apartment 8E when resident Patricia Fashion tried to throw a cigarette match in to an ashtray and missed, Quill said. The match instead landed in the pot of an artificial plant in the living room, he said. The plastic plant caught fire. Fashion tried to douse the flames with a bucket of water from the kitchen sink but was unsuccessful, Quill said. The blaze grew as James Fashion tried to call 911 only to find that his phone was not working. By the time the two exited the apartment and alerted a neighbor, the flames had already started to lick up the living room wall. The fire then broke through to the outside of the building and burned through the soffit to the upper floor, Quill said. Members of the Slackwood, Lawrenceville and Pennington Road fire companies all responded to the scene to help battle the blaze, as volunteers from the Prospect Heights, West Trenton, Hamilton and Pennington Borough fire companies provided cover to Lawrence's empty firehouses. There were no reported injuries. The Red Cross is helping the victims find housing and providing them with other services, a spokeswoman said.”
June 9, 1995
A two-vehicle collision occurred at the corner of Eggerts Crossing Road and Drift Avenue on Friday, June 9, 1995. Station 22 was dispatched, along with Squad 129 and Rescue 129, at 12:12 p.m. Station 22 personnel cut the B-post on a Chevy Malibu and then assisted with the removal of the A- and B-posts on a Buick Century. The crew from Engine 22-1 stood by with a charge 1.75-inch handline as a precaution. Slackwood Fire Co. assisted by setting up a landing zone for a medivac helicopter at the National Guard Armory. The following story was printed in the Trenton Times on Saturday, June 10, 1995:
“Two Trenton women were seriously injured yesterday afternoon in a head-on crash on Eggerts Crossing Road near Drift Avenue, the site of several serious crashes in recent years, police said. Carrie Creech, 66, of the 200 block of Church Street apparently drifted across the yellow line in her blue 1993 Buick Century sedan and crashed head-on into a light blue 1979 Chevrolet Malibu station driven by Damaris Sanders, 40, of the first block of Dixfield Avenue at 12:10 p.m., police said. Creech apparently was traveling west toward Ewing, police said. Sanders’ car was traveling eastbound toward Route 206. It was Creech's third reported accident since 1987, said a spokesman with the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Rescue workers used the Jaws of Life to remove both women from their cars. They were taken by ambulance to a field at the nearby New Jersey Army National Guard 112th Field Artillery headquarters and then airlifted by State Police SouthStar helicopter to Robert Wood Johnson University Medical Center in New Brunswick, police said. Both women were admitted to the hospital and were listed in stable condition last night, a hospital spokeswoman said.
“A Ewing police officer who happened to be traveling down Eggerts Crossing Road was the first official on scene. He immediately used the radio in his patrol car to contact his dispatcher, who in turn contacted Lawrence authorities with a request for an ambulance and rescue crews, officials said. Volunteers from the Lawrence Township First Aid and Rescue Squad and the Lawrence Road Fire Co. went to the crash scene. While rescuers were busy extricating the two women from the wrecked cars, firefighters stood by with hoses in the event the cars’ damaged batteries sparked a fire, officials said. The vehicles spun around on impact and Sanders car came to rest in a driveway of a home owned by Barbara Brown, who said she heard a crash but did not see the accident. Several neighbors also said they did not see the accident but heard the crash…”
June 10, 1995
On Saturday, June 10, 1995, Engine 22-3 stood by at the headquarters of Edgely Fire Co. (Station 10) in Bristol Township, Pa., while they participated in the Bucks County Firemen’s Parade. During the stand by, Engine 22-3 responded to an alarm activation at 6750 Mill Creek Road in Bristol Township at 8:26 a.m. and a careless cooking incident at 1012 Wood Street in Bristol Borough at 10:28 a.m.
June 12, 1995
Another accident occurred on Eggerts Crossing Road on Monday, June 12, 1995. Station 22 was dispatched to the collision at 4:50 p.m. Lawrence Road firefighters stood by with a charged 1.75-inch handline while victims were removed from the vehicles. This account was printed in the Trenton Times on Tuesday, June 13, 1995: “Three people were injured yesterday in an accident near the scene of a similar crash that occurred Friday, police said. Connie Phillips, 53 – who was charged with careless driving – and her son, Scott, 26, both of Hanford Place, Trenton, both suffered minor injuries and were taken to Helene Fuld Medical Center, police said. The driver of the other car, Ilene Miller, 51, of Winnipeg Lane, Lawrence, refused medical attention, police said. Police said Miller was traveling through the rain on Eggerts Crossing Road around 4:37 p.m. when Phillips tried to make a left turn from Albemarle Road onto Eggerts Crossing and pulled out in front of her. Both cars spun and the force of the impact trapped Connie Phillips in the driver’s seat. She had to be freed by rescuers from the Lawrence Road Fire Co. and the Lawrence Township First Aid Squad, police said. Eggerts Crossing Road was closed for about 40 minutes, police said. Patrolman John Glenn, who investigated, said the injuries were minor because all three motorists were wearing seat belts. On Friday two women were seriously injured in a head-on collision that occurred about three blocks down Eggerts Crossing Road near Drift Avenue.”
June 21, 1995
A general alarm fire ravaged part of the Heath lumberyard on North Olden Avenue in Ewing Township in the early hours of Wednesday, June 21, 1995. At 1:50 a.m. Engine 22-3 was dispatched to cover the Pennington Road firehouse. While the engine was still en route to the cover assignment it was redirected to the fireground. Engine 22-3 laid 1,000 feet of 5-inch hose to supply Snorkel 21. The crew from Engine 22-3 then manned a 2.5-inch handline on the A/D corner of the fire building. Lawrence Road firefighters operated on the scene until 9:33 a.m. The blaze was documented on the front page of the Trenton Times with this story on Thursday, June 22, 1995:
“A raging fire tore through a section of a lumberyard early yesterday morning, sending flames into the night sky that could be seen for miles. Nearly 300 firefighters battled the 14-alarm fire in a storage building at Heath Lumber on North Olden Avenue. Firefighters were able to keep the blaze from spreading to five other buildings at the lumberyard and a number of neighboring properties. Two people sustained minor injuries while fighting the fire. Investigators have not determined the cause of the fire, but officials do not believe it was arson, police Lt. Thomas Balint said. ‘Everything is so charred, there’s no way to determine what caused the fire,’ said Gary Patricelli, whose father, John, has owned the 130-year-old firm for 44 years. A co-owner, Tony Alech, died earlier this year, he said. ‘We were very fortunate, the firefighters did an excellent job,’ Gary Patricelli said. ‘It could have been so devastating. We are still in business. Because of them and because of God we are still here.’
“Police officers responding to a burglar alarm spotted smoke pouring from one of the lumberyard buildings, a structure about 75 feet wide and 200 feet long, and called in the first alarm at 1:51 a.m., Balint said, adding that neighbors and motorists passing the lot reported a burning odor more than an hour earlier. ‘A police officer in that area at 1:45 a.m. smelled something burning,’ Balint said. ‘Then the officer noticed that a building in the rear of the main showroom had heavy smoke pouring out of it. The smoke just got heavier and heavier.’ Balint said firefighters initially went inside the 30-year-old building to fight the fire, but were forced back when flames broke through the roof and it collapsed. He said the building was used for storing doors, ceiling tiles, paneling, trim, molding and specialty items, including expensive woods such as mahogany and maple. He said the building also contained heavy machinery for cutting wood. ‘The fire was really roaring there for a long while,’ Balint said. ‘But the fire was contained to that one building and it didn't get to the other buildings or the outside lumber racks. The buildings were erected far enough apart so that the fire did not spread to the other sheds.’
“Balint praised the work of the firefighters and said they benefited from a plentiful supply of water. He said six aerial units rained down water toward the building's corners and perimeter, protecting the adjacent structures and forcing the fire back toward the middle of the building, in effect, turning it back upon itself. Prospect Heights Fire Co. Chief William G. Erney Jr., among the first firefighters to arrive, said, ‘When I pulled up I could see thick, heavy smoke at the center of the complex. We sent a ladder to the rear of the building and an engine to the right front. We started the interior attack but the fire was so far gone, it was going over their heads. When it vented itself, it really took off.’ The fire was declared under control at 4:45 a.m. but firefighters remained at the lumberyard well into the afternoon, turning over debris, wetting wood and watching for flare-ups, officials said. By the end of the day, 14 alarms had been sounded, each one bringing in additional firefighters and equipment needed at the scene.
“Nearly 300 firefighters, including relief and support crews, responded, Erney said, indicating that the alarm total was the highest for any blaze he can remember. Ken Johnson, 42, a firefighter with Slackwood Fire Co. in Lawrence, collapsed during the blaze and was taken to Helene Fuld Medical Center in Trenton. He was treated for smoke inhalation and was released, a hospital spokeswoman said. Heavy equipment operator Ricky Hunt suffered a broken nose when some debris he was moving flew up and hit him, Erney said. Several firefighters said they were bothered by nails that were strewn about when the roof collapsed, Balint said. Detective Tim Foley headed a team of township detectives examining the fire site. They were joined by investigators from the State Police, the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office, county Fire Marshal George Lenhardt and his assistants, Joseph Lenhardt and James Greschak, Balint said. North Olden Avenue was closed between Princeton Avenue and Arctic Parkway until about 10 a.m., causing a few headaches for morning commuters. Several trucks making deliveries to businesses located between the closed roads were forced to wait until firefighters were able to pick up the several thousand feet of hoses lining the street.
“Officials said firefighters from the following fire companies fought the blaze: Prospect Heights, Pennington Road, West Trenton, all of Ewing; Slackwood, Lawrence Road, Lawrenceville, all of Lawrence; three Trenton companies, Engines 5, 6, and 10; Mercerville, Rusling Hose, Hamilton, Enterprise, DeCou Hose, White Horse, Nottingham, Colonial, all of Hamilton; West Windsor; Pennington; and Union of Titusville. Several Bucks County fire companies also responded, including Capitol View and Union in Morrisville; Falls and Fairless Hills in Falls; Upper Makefield; Yardley-Makefield; and the Newtown Fire Association. The Signal 22 canteen truck provided support to the firefighters…”
July 18, 1995
Lawrence Road Firefighter Gary Wasko suffered a laceration to an ear while responding to a smoke condition at 130 Merline Avenue on Tuesday, July 18, 1995. The smoke condition, which was reported at 2:36 p.m., was caused by an overheated air conditioner.
July 23, 1995
At 7 p.m. on Sunday, July 23, 1995, the Lawrenceville and Lawrence Road fire companies were dispatched to a fire at 24 Andrew Drive. Engine 22-3 arrived first and was directed by Chief 23 to lead off with a 1.75-inch handline. The blaze was quickly extinguished and contained to an upstairs bedroom. The following appeared in the Trenton Times on Monday, July 24, 1995:
“The motor of a portable fan seized and overheated yesterday, sparking a fire that damaged the spare bedroom of an Andrew Drive home, officials said. No one was injured and township firefighters were able to douse the blaze before it could extend beyond the second-floor room. The fire was discovered just minutes before 7 p.m. Homeowner Frank Stowits was downstairs with his wife, Margate, when he heard a smoke detector sounding on the second floor of the 2.5-story home. He went up to investigate and found smoke rapidly filling the hallway from the spare bedroom, said Chief Kevin Reading of the Lawrenceville Fire Co.
“Margate Stowits ran to the phone and called 911. The two then ran from the house. Frank Stowits ran around to the front of the house, grabbed a garden hose and sprayed water up to the window of the room, Reading said. Reading said the window was closed but the thermal imbalance created by the heat of the fire and the cold of the water caused the window to shatter and Stowits was able to get water on the fire. He was standing there with the hose when more than 30 volunteers from the Lawrenceville and Lawrence Road fire companies arrived a few moments later. They were able to douse the flames quickly, Reading said. The chief said the bedroom sustained fire damage near the window where some furniture burned, and there was moderate smoke damage to the remainder of the second floor. He said the attic absorbed a lot of heat and the first floor sustained minor smoke and water damage.”
August 20, 1995
At 9:35 p.m. on Sunday, August 20, 1995, the Lawrence Road Fire Co. was sent to assist the Lawrenceville Fire Co. at the scene of a fire in the Cleve House on the campus of Lawrenceville School. Station 22 personnel were on the scene until 10:20 p.m. This account was printed in the Trenton Times on Monday, August 21, 1995: “Workers using a heat gun to strip lead paint from the porch of a dormitory last night touched off a small fire on the campus of Lawrenceville School, officials said. The blaze was reported at 9:35 p.m. when late-night workers at the Cleve House smelled smoke. ‘Apparently they left (the heat gun) on the wood too long,’ said Chief Kevin Reading of the Lawrenceville Fire Co. ‘When they smelled smoke, they went and checked the roof and found a hot area,’ he said. ‘They opened it up and saw fire inside.’ The blaze was quickly extinguished. Damage was limited to the porch area of the dormitory. Assisting were volunteers from Lawrence Road Fire Co. and Lawrence First Aid Squad.”
August 21, 1995
At 3:39 p.m. on Monday, August 21, 1995, Station 22 was dispatched to assist Slackwood firefighters at a fire at 62 Hopatcong Drive. But at 3:45 p.m. all Station 22 apparatus were redirected to the scene of a fire involving a tar pot on Enterprise Avenue. Engines 22-2 and 22-3 and Special Services 22 responded. Lawrence Road crews assisted in fire suppression and also in checking an exposure building for fire extension. Firefighters Andrew Fosina and Tim Kasony Jr. were treated on scene for heat exhaustion. This report was published in the Trenton Times on Tuesday, August 22, 1995:
“Two blazes reported six minutes apart yesterday caused some frantic moments for township firefighters. But the flames were doused quickly and caused only minor damage, officials said. The first fire was reported at 3:39 p.m. when residents at a home on Hopatcong Drive called 911 to say their laundry room was ablaze, officials said. Volunteers from the Slackwood and Lawrence Road fire companies were called out. Fire crews found a small fire in the basement, caused when a plastic cup of gasoline was left on top of a washing machine. ‘They were trying to burn bees out of their back yard,’ said Slackwood Capt. Mike Oakley. ‘The gas ate through the cup and spilled down the side of the washing machine. The fumes caught the pilot light on the hot water heater and caused a flash fire.’ While Slackwood firefighters were dousing that blaze – which scorched the basement floor and the washing machine – another fire was reported at 3:45 p.m. at a warehouse on Enterprise Avenue. Lawrence Road firefighters were redirected to that fire to aid other Slackwood crews.
“When they arrived, flames from a tar pot were licking the side of the building. ‘They were putting a new tar roof on,’ said Slackwood Deputy Chief Ed Budzinski, who directed firefighting efforts. ‘The tar overheated, bubbled over and caught fire.’ The blaze sent a large plume of black smoke into the sky, causing firefighters from Trenton and the Hamilton Fire Co. to also respond. Fire crews first used dry chemical fire extinguishers to douse the blaze to prevent the hot tar from splattering. Once the flames were under control, hoses were used to cool the tar pot. The building escaped serious damage, Budzinski said. At least two firefighters, Andrew Fosina and Tim Kasony Jr. of Lawrence Road, were treated at the scene for minor heat exhaustion. Several workers reportedly suffered first-degree burns…”
August 25, 1995
Another minor fire was reported at the Cleve House at the Lawrenceville School at 5:02 p.m. on Friday, August 25, 1995. Lawrence Road firefighters were on scene for 30 minutes. This story was printed in the Trenton Times on Saturday, August 26, 1995: “For the second time in six days, workers using a heat gun to strip paint from the roof of a dormitory at the Lawrenceville School started a fire, officials said. The blaze was reported shortly after 5 p.m. when workers at the Cleve House realized the heat gun they were using had started a fire inside the wooden roof of the dormitory's porch, officials said. Volunteers from the Lawrenceville Fire Co., aided by members of the Lawrence Road Fire Co., cut a hole in the roof, found the fire, and doused it before it could cause serious damage, officials said. On Sunday, a similar fire broke out around 9:30 p.m. in the same area of the Cleve House porch. That blaze was also caused by a misused heat gun, officials said. The name of the contracting company performing the work on the dormitory was not known last night. Officials from the Lawrenceville School had all gone home for the day and could not be reached for comment.”
August 31, 1995
At 12:09 p.m. on Thursday, August 31, 1995, Engine 22-3 was dispatched to cover the Pennington Road during a fire on the roof of the General Motors building on Parkway Avenue in Ewing. While en route to Station 32, Engine 22-3 was redirected to the fireground to assist in ventilation and overhaul operations. The Trenton Times printed this account on Friday, September 1, 1995:
“A three-alarm fire damaged a building at the General Motors plant on Parkway Avenue yesterday morning, officials said. Employees were evacuated shortly before noon and hundreds of firefighters gathered to fight the fire or cover stations whose crews were sent to the scene, officials said. A roofing crew spreading hot tar and using heaters to prepare the roofing material apparently started the fire at 11:50 a.m., Pennington Road Fire Co. Chief Paul Rulkiewicz said. Large sections of plywood, underlying the tar, were charred and had to be removed from the massive roof of the manufacturing building, firefighters said. The building is approximately 1,000 feet by 3,000 feet, a fire official said. ‘The roofers told me something apparently spilled and started the fire,’ Rulkiewicz said. ‘We have an arrangement with General Motors where they don’t call us in unless there is actually a fire and that's what they had here today. The workers told us the fire was out but that was not entirely true. It was a dangerous fire.’
“The fire took place at the Delphi Interior and Lighting Systems plant, formerly known as the Inland Fisher Guide plant, officials said. Calls to plant officials were not returned. A source close to the investigation said burners may have been used on the roof in violation of regulations. Employees said the building contained manufacturing facilities and offices. They said the building was filled with smoke after the fire and some walls and ceilings were damaged. Rulkiewicz said the building's roof was equipped with standpipes and hoses to assist in firefighting operations. Windows on the roof that allow light into the rooms beneath them were shattered by the heat of the fire, Rulkiewicz said.
“The chief said firefighters quickly stopped the fire and then cut into the plywood to search for embers which might reignite the blaze. They also set up powerful fans to rid the building of smoke, he said. The fire was declared under control at 12:48 p.m., Rulkiewicz said. There were no injuries to employees or firefighters, although rescue squads set up a rehab center for firemen to rest and rehydrate after spending time on the roof, above the heat of the fire and beneath the searing sun. Among the crews which raced to the fire were the Pennington Road Fire Co.’s Engine 32-1, Engine 32-3 and Rescue 32, West Trenton Fire Co.’s Engine 33-2, Prospect Heights Fire Co.’s Engine 31-4, Slackwood Fire Co.’s Snorkel 21 and Engine 21-2, Lawrence Road Fire Co.’s Engine 22-3, Yardley-Makefield (Pa.) Fire Co.’s Ladder Tower 80, Pennington Fire Co.’s Engine 51, Union Fire Co. of Titusville’s Engine 53-3, and Ewing EMS.”
During September 1995, the Lawrence Road Fire Co. again played host to members of the London Fire Brigade. Visiting and riding with Station 22 for two weeks were Matt Zarych (who first visited in 1994), his father Mick Zarych, and Chris Weatherley.
September 19, 1995
An arson fire occurred in an office building at 3100 Princeton Pike on the night of Tuesday, September 19, 1995. Lawrence Road Fire Co. was dispatched at 6:55 p.m. to assist Lawrenceville and Slackwood fire companies. Lawrence Road firefighters, together with the visiting London firefighters, searched through the second and third floors of the smoke-charged building and assisted in ventilation and overhaul. Station 22 personnel were on scene until 9:20 p.m. The Trenton Times printed this story on Wednesday, September 20, 1995:
“A suspicious fire led to the rescue of two employees from a professional building here and resulted in extensive damage to the structure. Firemen using a hook and ladder truck plucked one of the men from an office window on the northwest corner of Building Two in the professional office park in the 3100 block of Princeton Pike. ‘They put an oxygen mask on him and brought him down,’ said Chief Kevin Reading of the Lawrenceville Fire Co. The building houses doctors, dentists and other medical professionals.
“Two Lawrence Township police officers helped another man escape through a basement window the man had broken out on the opposite corner of the building. One of the officers, Patrolman William Chester, cut his arm as he lifted himself through the window. Police said they did not immediately know the names of those who were rescued from the blaze, which was reported just before 7 p.m. ‘There was a group of women there who said there was somebody still in the basement and we ran around the building looking in all the windows to find him,’ said Chester.
“There was extensive smoke and water damage in the basement, and the second and third floors of the three-story building suffered extensive smoke damage. Arson investigators from the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office were still looking into the cause of the fire last night. Police believe the fire may have started in the basement. ‘We’re calling it suspicious for right now,’ said Lawrence police Sgt. Edward Gerasimowicz. Aside from the minor cut suffered by Chester, no other injuries were reported…”
October 2, 1995
At 3:44 p.m. on Monday, October 2, 1995, Lawrence Road Fire Co. was dispatched to assist at a hazardous materials incident at Rider University. Engines 22-1 and 22-3 responded. The Trenton Times printed this story on Tuesday, October 3, 1995: “Students and faculty working in Rider University’s science building were quickly evacuated yesterday after a hazardous chemical was accidentally spilled, police and fire officials said. No one was injured in the accident but about a pint of the chemical, phosphorus trichloride, was dropped on the concrete floor of one of the building’s laboratories, according to Chief Kevin Reading of the Lawrenceville Fire Co. The liquid, which is used in laboratory experiments, was being transferred from one container to another by a faculty member when it was spilled, Reading said. Phosphorus trichloride is poisonous if swallowed or inhaled and can cause severe burns on contact with skin or eyes, according to hazardous materials guidebooks. The spill occurred around 3:30 p.m. Immediately, several dozen people were evacuated from the science building and emergency personnel from the Lawrenceville and Lawrence Road fire companies and the Lawrence First Aid Squad were called out. The spill was contained to the laboratory and the chemical neutralized with sodium bicarbonate. Fans were then used to ventilate fumes from the building, Reading said. The chemical was finally absorbed and cleaned up by 5:30 p.m.”
January 7, 1996
On Sunday, January 7, 1996, Lawrence Road firefighters stood by at Station 22 during the “Blizzard of ’96.” During the storm, Station 22 personnel escorted the Lawrence First Aid Squad to EMS calls at 175 Johnson Avenue at 3:10 p.m., 547 Drexel Avenue at 7:52 p.m., and 123 Coolidge Avenue at 11:30 p.m.
January 16-25, 1996
From Tuesday, January 16, until Thursday, January 25, 1996, Lawrence Road Firefighters Larry Hoffman and Michael Ratcliffe visited England and rode to several fires from the Bethnal Green Fire Station of the London Fire Brigade. They also were given a tour of the fire safety apparatus inside the Channel Tunnel at Folkestone by members of the Kent County Fire Brigade.
January 19, 1996
The Huffman Koos furniture store in the Lawrence Shopping Center was destroyed by a multiple-alarm fire on Friday, January 19, 1996. The Slackwood and Lawrence Road fire companies were both dispatched at 6:10 p.m. When the alarm was transmitted, Engine 22-3 was at 103 Merline Avenue performing a dewatering assignment. As a result, Engine 22-3 arrived on location first and took up a position at the front of the building. At that time, flames were visible from the Huffman Koos sign. Lawrence Road firefighters, manning all three engines, operated at the scene until 5:14 a.m. They used a total of 1,150 feet of 1.75-inch hose, 400 feet of 2.5-inch hose, 650 feet of 3-inch hose, 500 feet of 4-inch hose, and 200 feet of 5-inch hose. During the incident, Lawrence Road Firefighter Dennis Morgan suffered a leg injury but refused treatment, and Firefighter Jeff Hancock suffered a shoulder and was treated at the scene. The Trenton Times published this account on Saturday, January 20, 1996:
“The Huffman-Koos furniture store in the Lawrence Shopping Center was destroyed last night after high winds fanned a small fire into an uncontrollable blaze, witnesses and officials said. Firefighters battled the unruly, three-alarm blaze for hours. The fire apparently started in a light fixture below the awning about 6:15 p.m. at the store on Alternate Route 1, witnesses and officials said. ‘I was helping a customer on the upper level, then she left,’ said saleswoman Suzanne Gallina. ‘She came back in and said the front of the building was on fire.’ Steve Niewood, also an employee, said he went outside to check, then ran back inside and ordered the six customers out of the store. Someone else phoned the fire department, and the manager, Vern Zames, and his six employees left through a side entrance. ‘The fire wasn’t that big,’ Gallina said. ‘It didn’t seem that bad, and the fire trucks were there by the time we came out. It took a while for them to get the water going, but the flames got caught by the wind.’
“The flames, fanned by gusts of up to 50 mph, quickly spread to the asphalt-covered roof, which collapsed about an hour after the blaze started. Firefighters tried to extinguish the flames rising from the 40,000-square-foot building with four aerial hoses, but as of 10:30 p.m. the fire was still burning out of control. The wind, which blew a pall of black smoke northeast over Alternate Route 1, raised fear among fire officials that the blaze would spread to the two houses Huffman-Koos uses as showrooms. ‘It’s a tragedy to see this happen,’ said shopping center manager Lawrence Platt, whose family owns the property. ‘But we’re grateful no one was injured, there was no threat to anyone's life. This could have been a real disaster.’ He said the store, which employs 20 people, has been in the shopping center for 36 years. It was originally owned by Huffman-Koos, but for most of the last two decades was known as Park Lane. Huffman-Koos bought the store back 18 months ago and renovated it. ‘It’s too early to comment on the impact’ of the fire damage and costs, Platt said. ‘This is a significant loss to south Lawrence,’ Township Administrator Bill Guhl said at the scene. He said it would be a setback to the area which, in recent years, has been plagued by vacant businesses and economic decline. Slackwood Fire Co. Chief Jack Oakley commanded fire crews.”
This update is published in the Trenton Times on Sunday, January 21, 1996: “Firefighters returned twice yesterday to douse hot spots at the Huffman-Koos furniture store, which was nearly destroyed by fire Friday. Slackwood Fire Co. Chief Jack Oakley said the store's merchandise was trapped when the roof collapsed during the blaze, creating ideal conditions for subsequent flare-ups. The roof shingles melted, and after the collapse firefighters had to break apart the roof to fight the blaze underneath. Oakley said the stuffed couches, mattresses, and wooden items coated with varnish created several flashpoints. The wind, along with a sudden drop in temperature, created gusty, slippery conditions that made fighting the blaze difficult, said Oakley. ‘This was a fantastic effort by everyone involved,’ he said. ‘The fire ran on us all night, but nobody let up.’ The fire began in an exterior lighting fixture at 6:15 p.m., and wind gusts up to 40 mph quickly spread it to the roof, said Oakley. After that, the bulk of the flames moved underneath and began burning the dry rafters supporting the roof. All employees escaped unharmed. Five firefighters sustained minor injuries during the seven-alarm blaze, mostly due to falls on the icy surface created by the water, said Oakley. Firefighters stayed at the scene for 11 hours after the alarm was received, then returned a short time later to apply more water...”
February 2, 1996
Lawrence Road Fire Co. responded to a pedestrian motor vehicle accident at 5:44 p.m. on Friday, February 2, 1996. Lawrence Road firefighters provided initial medical care to the injured pedestrian and then set up a landing zone in the parking lot of Station 22 for a medivac chopper. The Trenton Times published this report on Sunday, February 4, 1996:
“A township woman was seriously injured on Friday when she was struck by a car while walking across Route 206 on her way home from a bus stop, police said. Linda Phillips, 51, of the Eggerts Crossing Village complex on Johnson Avenue, was flown by medical helicopter to Cooper Hospital University Medical Center in Camden. She was in stable condition in the intensive care unit there last night, a nursing supervisor said. The accident occurred at 5:35 p.m. on Route 206 (Lawrence Road) near Gainsboro Road. A witness told police she and Phillips – both returning from work – exited a bus on the northbound side of Route 206. The two were in the middle of a conversation when Phillips stepped off the curb and started to cross the road, the witness told police, Lt. Thomas Webber said. Because cars were turning onto Route 206, the witness remained on the curb. According to the witness, Phillips kept talking, unaware that she was alone, Webber said. Phillips then realized she was talking to herself and paused in the middle of the southbound lane to look back toward her friend. At that moment, she was struck by a car driven by Andrew Garland, 36, of Field Crest Court, Lawrence, Webber said. Garland, who police say was under the 40-mph speed limit, said he did not see Phillips and that she ‘came out of nowhere,’ Webber said.
“Police said Phillips may have been difficult to see in the dark. She was dressed in a black coat, black pants and black shoes, and was carrying two dark- colored bags, Webber said. During the accident, Phillips' head struck the windshield of Garland’s car, shattering it and leaving a circular hole in the tempered glass. Several firefighters were at the Lawrence Road Fire Co. firehouse a block away when they heard a police radio dispatcher report that a pedestrian had just been struck. Fire Capt. Jim Pidcock ran from the firehouse and was the first rescuer on the scene. He began tending to the injured woman, but medics from Lawrence First Aid Squad quickly arrived and took charge. Because Phillips had suffered obvious head injuries, the medics requested the helicopter. The chopper landed in the parking lot of the Lawrence Road firehouse and Phillips was flown to Cooper's trauma unit. Patrolman Sam Pastorella is investigating and has interviewed several witnesses. Though unlikely, it is too early to tell if a motor vehicle summons will be issued, police said.”
March 27, 1996
Wednesday, March 27, 1996, was a busy day for the Trenton Fire Department, as a number of working fires, including a multiple-alarm blaze in a junkyard on Muirhead Avenue, was reported that afternoon. All city units were committed at the fires, so mutual aid companies were sent to fill city firehouses. From 5:10 p.m. until 6 p.m. Engine 22-3 stood by at the headquarters of Engine 2 on South Broad Street.
March 28, 1996
Flames damaged a second-floor apartment at the White Pines complex on Thursday, March 28, 1996. Lawrence Road and Lawrenceville fire companies received the alarm at 12:59 p.m. Chief 23 arrived on location and reported smoke showing. Engine 22-1 arrived and its crew led off with a 1.75-inch handline. The fire was contained to the kitchen of the apartment, but the rest of the apartment sustained smoke damage. Two neighboring units were also damage by smoke and water. Lawrence Road firefighters were on scene until 4:15 p.m. The Trenton Times ran this story on Friday, March 29, 1996:
“A fire broke out in the kitchen of a unit of the White Pine apartments yesterday afternoon, fire officials said. There were no injuries, but the residence was ruled uninhabitable until repairs are made, officials said. The apartment, in the 200 block of White Pine Circle, sustained moderate smoke and water damage, officials said. A neighbor heard an alarm sounding from a second-floor unit about 12:45 p.m. and called maintenance to investigate. Maintenance worker Eric Shanks arrived at the apartment a few minutes later and unlocked the door and found a smoke-filled apartment. He then discharged a portable fire extinguisher into the smoke and evacuated the apartment. Volunteers from Lawrence Road and Lawrenceville fire companies responded and brought the fire under control in about 10 minutes, officials said. A neighboring second-floor apartment also suffered moderate smoke damage and another apartment below had minor water damage. The apartment’s occupants were not home at the time of the fire and are now staying elsewhere while repairs are made. The other two damaged units are habitable. The Slackwood Fire Co. and Lawrence First Aid Squad also assisted at the scene.”
April 14, 1996
At 3:55 p.m. on Sunday, April 14, 1996, an engine from Lawrence Road Fire Co. was dispatched to stand by at Station 32 while Pennington Road firefighters were busy fighting a brush fire along the railroad tracks near Lower Ferry Road. At 4:07 p.m., the engine was called into the scene to help battle the blaze. Lawrence Road firefighters operated until 5:49 p.m. This account was printed in the Trenton Times on Monday, April 15, 1996: “Sparks from a freight train started numerous hard-to-reach brush fires along Conrail's West Trenton line yesterday. The train, which consisted of two locomotives and 37 cars of ‘mixed freight,’ was en route from Morrisville, Pa., to Newark on the former Reading Railroad tracks, said Arnie Bornstein, a Conrail spokesman. He said sparks ‘from the lead locomotive started some minor fires.’ The first fire was reported about 3:20 p.m. near the train bridge on Parkway Avenue. Minutes later, two more blazes were discovered by the tracks behind the township municipal building near Upper Ferry Road. Others were found behind warehouses on Lower Ferry Road and near the Ewing-Hopewell border. ‘Access was the biggest problem,’ said Chief Paul Rulkiewicz of Pennington Road Fire Co. ‘We just couldn’t get to them. There was no way to get a pumper near them.’ Instead, firefighters wielded shovels and used four-wheel drive ‘brush trucks’ fitted with water tanks. ‘We kept getting reports of more fires,’ Rulkiewicz said. ‘We had about 10 different fires. The wind wasn't helping. It fanned the fire toward the stuff that hadn’t burned.’ By about 4:30 p.m., the fires were under control and the defective locomotive was taken out of service to be checked. The train, drawn by the second locomotive, completed its journey to Newark, Bornstein said. Assisting Pennington Road crews were the Prospect Heights, West Trenton, Lawrence Road, Lawrenceville, Pennington, Hopewell, Union-Titusville, Princeton Junction fire companies, and the Langhorne-Middletown Fire Co. of Langhorne, Pa.”
May 20, 1996
A fire in the duct work of an apartment at the Meadow Woods complex was reported to the Slackwood and Lawrence Road fire companies at 5:04 p.m. on Monday, May 20, 1996. This account was printed in the Trenton Times on May 21, 1996: “A bird’s nest built in the duct work of an air conditioning unit of an apartment building went up in flames yesterday, officials said. The blaze in one of the apartments at the Meadow Woods complex on Lawrence Road caused a lot of smoke but was brought under control before it could cause serious damage, officials said. A resident of the apartment alerted authorities around 5:15 p.m. after heat from the air conditioner’s motor sparked the fire. Volunteers from Slackwood and Lawrence Road fire companies responded and doused the flames.”
May 29, 1996
At 4:13 a.m. on Wednesday, May 29, 1996, Lawrence Road Fire Co. was dispatched to an electrical fire in the basement of the home at 1088 Lawrence Road. The Trenton Times printed this report on Thursday, May 30, 1996: “A smoke detector alarm woke residents of a Lawrence Road home early yesterday and gave them enough warning to summon help and briefly attack a fire, preventing the flames from spreading beyond the basement, officials said. The blaze in the 2.5-story home in the 1000 block of Lawrence Road was reported at 4:13 a.m. after George Salvadore and his wife awoke to the blare of the smoke detector, officials said. Officials said Salvadore told them he heard a electrical buzz coming from the basement. When he went to investigate, he found smoke and fire coming from the electrical circuit-breaker box, officials explained. Salvadore emptied a dry chemical extinguisher on the fire, officials said. Moments later, volunteers from the Lawrence Road Fire Co. arrived and finished dousing the flames. Slackwood Fire Co. volunteers then arrived and assisted in setting up fans to clear out smoke, which had spread throughout the house. Officials said part of the breaker box was melted. Investigators believe the fire was electrical in nature, but said yesterday that the exact cause was still undetermined. Electricity to the house was shut off by utility workers and the residents were advised to have an electrician repair the damage, officials said. Officials said the fire could have been far worse. If the smoke detectors had not alerted residents or if they had not been home, the fire could have spread undetected throughout the house until it was beyond stopping, officials said.”
June 5, 1996
At 2:43 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5, 1996, Engine 22-3 was dispatched to stand by at the Lawrenceville firehouse during a fire at the Best Products store on Quakerbridge Road. At 3:23 p.m. Engine 22-3 was special-called to the fireground to assist. Lawrence Road firefighters were on the scene until 5:17 p.m. The Trenton Times printed this account on Thursday, June 6, 1996: “A spark from a welding torch ignited a raging trash fire that filled a nearby retail store with smoke yesterday, officials said. The blaze outside Best Products on Quakerbridge Road was started about 2:25 p.m. by a contractor working on the compactor section of the large trash container, said Lawrenceville Fire Co. Capt. Fred Bentley. He said a welding spark first ignited construction debris piled around the outside of the trash container, which was next to the Best store. Flames then spread to the materials inside the container, he said. Concerned flames might spread, firefighters quickly towed the blazing container away from the store. Crews from Slackwood and Lawrence Road fire companies were needed to help flood flames with large volumes of water, Bentley said. ‘There was a medium smoke condition through the warehouse section,’ Bentley said. ‘But there was no extension of fire to the building.’ James Wagg, Best’s customer service manager, said the store stayed open for business through the ordeal and did not have to be evacuated. He said ‘there was a bit of a smoky smell’ in the show rooms, but there were no other problems. Firefighters used fans to vent the smoke from the building and were on the scene for about three hours.”
June 12, 1996
The “Flood of ‘96” occurred on the night of Wednesday, June 12, 1996. Heavy rains caused widespread flooding throughout the Mercer County region. Lawrence Road firefighters responded to 30 calls for service from 5:15 p.m. until 12:50 a.m. Among those responded were several calls to Ewing Township, including the rescue of several civilians from the flooded Parkside Diner. During the rescue effort, Lawrence Road Lt. James Moran and Firefighters Gary Wasko, Sonny Kitchen, Jeff Hancock, and Michael Ratcliffe waded through water about four feet deep to reach the diner.
The Trenton Times published these details about the storm in a story on Thursday, June 6, 1996: “A violent thunder and lightning storm relentlessly pounded the Trenton region last night, causing scores of buildings to catch fire or buckle, and forcing evacuations of many homes near overflowing waterways. Hundreds of roads throughout the area were closed, making it difficult and sometimes impossible for the already harried emergency crews to reach stranded residents and motorists on roads where the voluminous downpour brought the water to chest levels. The near-collapse of the Parkway Diner on severely flooded Olden Avenue in Ewing forced the evacuation of employees there, who could be reached only by a front-end loader. Hundreds of residents were evacuated by rescuers on boats and Jet Skis in Ewing and in Yardley, Pa., where overflowing waterways trapped residents in their flooded homes between the Delaware Canal and the Delaware River. Trenton police said the entire western section of the city was flooded and all roads there were closed. At 12:30 this morning, Lawrence police were considering evacuations. Rescue centers were set up in Bucks County, Pa., and in Ewing.
“When the first of a line of storms hit about 5 p.m., fire crews were inundated with calls of lightning starting house and wire fires. No injuries were reported, but many workers at police and fire stations were too busy to discuss details. Soon, the teeming rain and hail replaced the lightning as the most threatening condition. The storm dumped at least four inches of rain on Mercer County. Yardley was completely blacked out and authorities were saying that the flooded section of town was being evacuated with the use of boats sent in from throughout the area. In addition to the threat of fire in homes where basement flooding got dangerously near electrical boxes and outlets, many of the evacuations were done because the abundance of water threatened gas lines, causing thousands of reports of gaseous odors.
“Residents along Lower Ferry Road in Ewing were hit hard. Leonard W. Hunter of Lower Ferry Road said flooding ‘washed away’ much of the land in his back yard. Public Service Electric & Gas received thousands of calls of power outages and requests to turn off electrical and gas services to avert catastrophes. A state of emergency was declared in Ewing, where many residents were evacuated to Ewing High School. Crews held their breath with reports that the Assunpink Creek was expected to flood and the National Weather Service reported that a flash-flood warning for Mercer County would continue until at least 2 a.m. Trenton also had an undetermined number of reports of houses being struck by lightning, flooding, and electrical fires. ‘I have at least 25 reports on my desk,’ said Trenton Battalion Chief Richard Laird. ‘So far, no injuries,’ he said at about 10 p.m.
“High winds toppled six poles on Post Road, near Assunpink Park in West Windsor, according to police and PSE&G. The toppled poles prompted speculation that a tornado had touched down but that was unconfirmed. ‘It was a very strong, intense storm in that area but that is the first report of a possible tornado,’ Anthony Gigi, meteorologist on duty at the U.S. Weather Service office in Mount Holly, said. ‘You don’t have to have a tornado to get winds strong enough to snap power poles.’ PSE&G spokeswoman Michelle O'Neil said at 5 p.m. there were 6,000 customers without power in Ewing, Hamilton, West Windsor, Plainsboro and Willingboro. Commerce also was affected by the storm, which took the power out at the Oxford Valley Mall in Middletown, Pa., and caused some problems in Mercer County stores.
“Bob Brackett, deputy fire chief for the Lawrenceville Fire Co., said there was a smoking situation at the Quaker Bridge Mall, which caused quite a stir. In ‘several stores in the mall,’ Brackett said, ‘lighting panels got hot and produced some smoke.’ One of the mall stores was Lord and Taylor, he said. Flickering lights and a blown-out air-conditioning unit at the Kmart in the Mercer Mall on Route 1 didn't stop about a dozen shoppers, according to manager Jonathan Watson. Fires and smoke problems were reported all over the Lawrence last night, fire officials said.
“Lawrence Road Fire Co. Chief Patrick Kent said they received 22 calls from residents and business owners complaining about fires, water problems and smoke. One was an oil burner that caught fire on Smithfield Avenue, Kent said. Brackett said a car crashed into a pole just outside of Michael's Diner by Howard Johnson’s on Route 1 and lightning struck some barrels near the American Appliance store and caused some light smoking…”
June 13, 1996
From 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 13, 1996, Engine 22-2 helped Slackwood Fire Co. draft water from the flooded basements of several buildings in the Westgate Apartment complex on Lawrence Road. Also that day, Lawrence Road firefighters pumped flooded basements at 600 Lawrence Road, 161 Hazelhurst Avenue, 171 Hazelhurst Avenue, 117 Manitee Avenue, and 18 Balsam Court.
June 19, 1996
At 3:06 p.m. on Wednesday, June 19, 1996, Lawrence Road Fire Co. was dispatched to assist Slackwood firefighters at a fire on the roof of the Pasta Blitz restaurant at 2021 Brunswick Pike. This account was printed in the Trenton Times on Thursday, June 20, 1996: “An electrical short is the suspected cause of a fire that broke out on the roof of the Pasta Blitz eatery yesterday, officials said. The fire at the restaurant in the 2000 block of Brunswick Pike was reported at 3:06 p.m. when flames spurted from a sign on the roof, officials said. Volunteers from the Slackwood and Lawrence Road fire companies, as directed by Slackwood Deputy Chief Ed Budzinski, had the electrical service to the building shut off, officials said. Fire crews then climbed ladders to the roof and extinguished flames, officials said. The cause of the blaze appears to be electrical, though it is still under investigation, officials said. It was unclear if yesterday’s strong rain caused the short. Though the restaurant was evacuated during the firefighting effort, there were no injuries and damage was limited to the exterior of the building.”
June 21, 1996
A basement fire occurred at 55 Alcazar Avenue on Friday, June 21, 1996. Lawrence Road firefighters were dispatched at 1:46 p.m. Engine 22-1 arrived to find heavy smoke showing from the basement and first floor of the two-story dwelling. Engine 22-1’s crew stretched a 1.75-inch handline through the basement bilco doors to attack the flames. Meanwhile, Engine 22-3 laid 1,000 feet of 5-inch hose to supply Engine 22-1. Lawrence Road Fire Co. was on the scene until 4:46 p.m. The Trenton Times ran this story on Sunday, June 23, 1996:
“Authorities are still investigating the cause of a blaze that broke out in the basement of a house Friday afternoon, township officials said yesterday. The blaze in the two-story frame dwelling on Alcazar Avenue was discovered at 1:46 p.m. by residents, said police Sgt. Ed Gerasimowicz, who relayed information from the police incident report. Homeowner Ralph Austin and other family members – including the man’s grandchildren – reportedly spotted smoke in the basement. They tried to smother the fire by throwing sugar and flour onto flames, Gerasimowicz said, after reading the police incident report. The family also tried to use a garden hose to fight the fire, he said. When volunteers from nearby Lawrence Road Fire Co. arrived on the scene minutes later, heavy smoke was showing from the front and side the house and flames were coming from the outside basement doors, fire officials said. Firefighters Jeff Hancock, Tim Kasony Jr., Mike Byrd and Marty Burch worked their way down into the burning basement and attacked the flames, fire officials said. The Slackwood and Lawrenceville fire companies assisted. The fire was under control in about 15 minutes, though fire crews remained at the scene until 4:45 p.m. The basement suffered significant fire, heat and smoke damage, fire officials said. Township Detective Al Veltri and Detective Lloyd Mathis from the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office are investigating the fire.”
July 4, 1996
Engine 22-2 (the 1978 Bruco) was permanently taken out of service on Thursday, July 4, 1996. The engine was sold in 1998 for $11,500 to an apparatus dealer in Alabama (who in turn refurbished it and sold it to a company in Tennessee). Several weeks later, Rescue 22 was placed in service. Rescue 22, a combined pumper and heavy rescue unit built by KME equipped with an onboard cascade system and a light tower, cost approximately $329,450.
August 17, 1996
A fatal accident involving a collision between a motorcycle and a car occurred on Saturday, August 17, 1996. Station 22, along with Squad 129 and Rescue 129, were dispatched at 5:57 a.m. Rescue 22 and Engine 22-3 responded and firefighters stretched 1.75-inch handlines as a precautionary measure. Firefighters remained on the scene until 8:45 a.m. This account was printed in the Trenton Times on Sunday, August 18, 1996:
“A township man was killed when his motorcycle collided head-on with a car on Route 206 yesterday morning, police said. The motorcyclist, David Serge, 24, was wearing a helmet, but his injuries were so extensive that he died at the scene, police said. Police were still investigating the accident yesterday and said they are not yet sure of the exact cause. The accident occurred at 5:55 a.m. on Route 206 (Lawrence Road) near Fairfield Avenue, a short distance north of Notre Dame High School. According to Patrolman Rob Loveless, Serge was riding his motorcycle south on Route 206 when he struck the northbound subcompact car driven by Retha Palmer, 48, of Trenton. ‘For an unknown reason, the motorcycle crossed into the northbound lane and struck the auto head-on, causing instant or near-instant death,’ Loveless explained. Almost immediately after the impact, township emergency dispatchers were swamped with 911 calls. Several area residents, awakened from their morning slumber, told investigators the crash sounded like a shotgun blast. Based on the number of calls, every available police unit was sent to the scene.
“Volunteers from the Lawrence Road Fire Co. and Lawrence First Aid Squad were also alerted. When rescuers first arrived, they found Serge lying in the middle of the road. Serge was pronounced dead just minutes later and a medical helicopter that had been requested to stand-by was canceled. Palmer, found with her car, was rushed to Helene Fuld Medical Center, where she was treated and released, a hospital spokeswoman said. The front of her car was crushed, its bumper torn off. The vehicle’s front windshield was shattered in a spider's web pattern, and there was a gaping hole where the rear window once was. Several deep indentations pockmarked the car's roof. Though police are still investigating, they believe Serge’s head ‘probably hit the front windshield and he flipped over,’ Loveless said. ‘Some other part of his body had to hit the back windshield to break it.’ The force of the impact propelled the motorcycle about 80 feet backward, while Serge’s body fell to the road about 50 feet from the point of the collision, Loveless said. The car came to a stop after the impact, then rolled several dozen feet down a hill until it stopped at the curb, he said.
“Loveless said police found no skid marks on the road, indicating neither driver had time to brake. He said it is so far unclear how fast either vehicle was traveling. Loveless said charges probably will not be filed against Palmer, though he stressed that the crash remains under investigation. ‘As far as we can tell at this point, she was not at fault,’ he explained. In addition to Loveless, Patrolmen David Burns and Rick Doldy are investigating the crash. Investigators from the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office are assisting. Investigations were supervised by Lts. Joe Mosner and William Nester and Sgt. Ed Conroy. Route 206 remained closed until about 8:45 a.m. while police investigated. Lawrence Road firefighters remained at the scene throughout the investigation to assist police.”
September 4, 1996
A general alarm fire destroyed the Trenton Kramer Co. complex on North Olden Avenue in Trenton on Wednesday, September 4, 1996. At 10:55 p.m., Engine 22-3 was special-called and laid 1,000 feet of 5-inch hose from the North Olden Avenue bridge to New York Avenue as part of an LDH relay. Lawrence Road firefighters, who remained on scene until 1:40 a.m., manned a deluge gun on Side B of the original fire building. This account appeared on the New Jersey Firefighters Online computer website:
“A bright orange glow lit the night sky for hours as an eight-alarm arson fire destroyed four abandoned commercial buildings on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 1996. It was around 8:36 p.m. when the city’s 911 dispatch center received several calls reporting flames in one of the buildings in the old Trenton Kramer Co. industrial complex in the 600 block of North Olden Avenue. Trenton Kramer Co., which manufactured air-conditioning and heating equipment, went bankrupt in 1990. The first firefighters to reach the scene, under the command of Battalion Chief Thomas Murl, reported that heavy fire was showing from the windows of the three-story mill at the center of the complex. Flames quickly took hold of the entire building, which measured approximately 450 feet by 50 feet in size, and the roof and walls soon collapsed inward.
“A second alarm was called at 8:44 p.m.; a third alarm at 9:10 p.m.; a fourth alarm at 9:25 p.m. Every unit of the Trenton Fire Department, including several reserve pieces, were called to the job. As the fire escalated to a general alarm, volunteer fire companies from throughout Mercer County and Bucks County (Pa.) responded to the scene. By 10 p.m., all four buildings in the complex were ablaze and Trenton Fire Chief Dennis Keenan had assumed command. Police shut down several roads in the area, including Route 1, to accommodate fire apparatus. Residents of several nearby homes were also evacuated to a safe area.
“To supply water to the numerous master streams in operation, firefighters laid several thousand feet of hose to hydrants throughout the area, including some as far away as New York Avenue near the rear of Helene Fuld Medical Center. Firefighters remained on scene all night battling the inferno and throughout the following day hitting hot spots and assisting investigators. Police later confirmed that the fire had been set by an arsonist. They said they found three separate points of origin in two of the four buildings…”
October 12, 1996
At noon on Saturday, October 12, 1996, the members of the Lawrence Road Fire Co. held an open house and a dedication ceremony for the new Rescue 22.
October 16, 1996
At 3:06 p.m. on Wednesday, October 16, 1996, Rescue 22 was sent to stand by for a medivac landing at a field at the Lawrence High School. The medivac was needed for a woman injured when a van went out of control and ran into a crown of people at Ben Franklin School on Princeton Pike. Rescue 22 was back in station at 4 p.m.
November 7, 1996
Fire broke out in the heater room of Lawrence Toyota in the early hours of Thursday, November 7, 1996. The fire was reported at 1:26 a.m. and all three Lawrence Township fire companies responded. Engine 22-3 laid 400 feet of 5-inch supply hose. The crews from Engine 22-3, along with manpower from Rescue 22 and Engine 22-1, assisted in fire suppression, ventilation, and search operations. The fire was declared under control at 2:17 p.m. and Lawrence Road firefighters were on scene until 4 a.m. The Trenton Times printed this story on Friday, November 8, 1996:
“A Route 1 car dealership suffered heavy smoke damage when a fire broke out in a malfunctioning refrigerator early yesterday and sent smoke throughout the building, fire officials said. The fire was first noticed when a delivery man dropping off parts in the rear of Lawrence Toyota on Route 1 around 1:30 a.m. smelled smoke coming from the building, Slackwood Fire Co. Chief Jack Oakley said. ‘He went across the street to an Exxon gas station and called in the fire,’ Oakley said. ‘When I arrived, there was a pretty good smoke condition coming from an exhaust fan on the side of the building.’ The Lawrenceville, Lawrence Road and Pennington Road fire companies also were called to assist because of the size of the two-story building at the junction of Brunswick Pike and Route 1, Oakley said. Firefighters were able to knock down the fire in about 45 minutes, but remained on the scene until nearly 4:30 a.m. to investigate. Mercer County Fire Marshal George Lenhardt and the township's fire inspector determined that the fire was caused by a faulty refrigerator stored in the back room, Oakley said. The fire was confined to the storage room while other areas of the dealership suffered minor smoke damage, officials said. There were no injuries, and the dealership was reopened yesterday at 6 a.m., Oakley said.”
November 15, 1996
At 1:45 p.m. on Friday, November 15, 1996, Engine 22-3 was dispatched to stand by at Station 23 while Lawrenceville firefighters were at a fire at 16-18 Nassau Street in Princeton Borough. At 1:58 p.m., Engine 22-3 was special-called to the scene of the blaze in Princeton. Lawrence Road firefighters assisted in checking for extension and were on the job until 3:30 p.m. The Trenton Times printed this story on Saturday, November 16, 1996:
“A fire on Nassau Street shut down the borough’s main thoroughfare for nearly three hours yesterday afternoon. Nassau Street was closed from the intersection of Route 206 to Witherspoon Street yesterday while firefighters fought a blaze at 16-18 Nassau St., the former location of Summit Bank. Fire officials say the fire started at about 12:35 p.m. when the boiler overheated in the basement of the building. Princeton Fire Department Deputy Chief Rick McKee said police received a call that someone smelled smoke coming from the building. Firefighters entered the building and found smoke on the second floor and a scorch mark on the east wall of the first floor, said McKee.
“McKee said the fire spread from the basement, up through the walls to the first and second floors of the vacant building. Firefighters had to tear down the wall to get to the fire, said McKee. Because the building shares a common wall with the office building next door at 20 Nassau St., employees who work in the neighboring building were evacuated. No one was injured in the blaze, said fire officials. The adjoining building was not damaged, said McKee. ‘It wasn’t a very large fire, but it was difficult to stop,’ said McKee. The West Windsor, Princeton Junction, Kingston, Lawrenceville, and Lawrence Road fire companies helped fight the blaze.”
December 4, 1996
The house at 6 Skyview Drive in Hopewell Township was gutted by flames on Wednesday, December 4, 1996. The Hopewell Fire Department received the alarm at 12:21 a.m. At 12:25 a.m. Rescue 22 was dispatched on a cascade assignment to the scene. Lawrence Road firefighters, who were on scene until about 3 a.m., assisted in fire suppression and salvage and overhaul operations. The fire was declared under control at 1:05 a.m.
December 18, 1996
At 8:32 p.m. on Wednesday, December 18, 1996, the Slackwood and Lawrence Road fire companies were dispatched to a structure fire at 1738 Princeton Avenue. Chief 21 arrived to find fire showing from the second floor of the three-story rowhouse. Engine 22-3 laid 400 feet of 5-inch supply hose and its crew then was ordered to check an exposure building for fire extension. Meanwhile, the crew from Engine 22-1 entered the fire building to back up Slackwood’s hose team, while Rescue 22’s crew was utilized for salvage and overhaul. The Trenton Times printed this account on Thursday, December 19, 1996:
“Even though ‘Santa’ lent a hand in battling a blaze in a Princeton Avenue house, a family of four was left temporarily homeless last night, fire officials said. The blaze in a home in the 1700 block of Princeton Avenue was reported at 8:32 p.m. Slackwood Fire Co. members were already in the neighborhood because of ‘Operation Santa Claus’ – a tradition in which St. Nick is carried through town on a fire engine. As a result, firefighters were on scene in two minutes. Smoke filled the area and flames were visible behind two second-floor windows on the left side of the 2 1/2-story duplex, said Slackwood Chief Jack Oakley.
“Oakley said he immediately called for a full first alarm, which summoned help from the Lawrence Road, Lawrenceville, and Pennington Road fire companies. Slackwood Deputy Chief Ed Budzinski, who had been Santa’s stand-in, had time to change out of his red suit and into his firefighting gear, but still sported the silvery-white makeup of Santa's moustache and eyebrows as he battled the blaze. The fire was ultimately brought under control by 9 p.m. The room in which the fire apparently started, a second-floor bedroom, was gutted, Oakley said. Part of the second-floor hall sustained some fire damage and the remainder of the floor suffered heat and smoke damage, he said. The other side of the duplex sustained light smoke damage, he said. There were no injuries, and the four residents will stay with neighbors until their home is repaired. Oakley said the cause of the fire was accidental. He said fire marshals found that an electrical cord, which had been crushed beneath a bed frame, overheated and sparked the blaze. Oakley said Slackwood volunteers will complete ‘Operation Santa Claus’ in their part of town (District 1) on another night.”
December 20, 1996
At 3 p.m. on Friday, December 20, 1996, the Lawrence Road Fire Co. was dispatched mutual aid to Ewing Township to help search for William G. Erney Sr., father of the Prospect Heights Fire Co. chief. The elder Erney, suffering from Alzheimer’s, wandered away from his nursing home. Engine 22-3 responded to the staging area at the West Trenton firehouse and its manpower assisted in the search. Later, Utility 22 responded to help search through the woods and fairways of the Trenton County Club. Lawrence Road firefighters did not return to Station 22 until 2 a.m. This account was printed in the Trenton Times on Sunday, December 22, 1996:
“Defying the odds and fulfilling the prayers of his family, an 80-year- old man with Alzheimer's disease survived a bitter cold Friday night in the woods. ‘There’s your Christmas miracle,’ said one veteran firefighter after William Erney Sr. was found alive around 8 a.m. yesterday, about 19 hours after he reportedly wandered from the Horizon Adult Medical Day Care Center. ‘We got our Christmas present early,’ said the man's son, William Erney Jr., from the family home on Allison Avenue in Ewing. He said his family is indebted to all those who helped find their loved one. Hundreds of firefighters, rescue squad members, police, and civilians combed acres of frost-covered farm land and woods looking for the elder Erney Friday night. But they had only located one of his shoes when cold and darkness brought to halt the search about 1:30 a.m.
“According to the National Weather Service, the overnight temperature plummeted to just 18 degrees. When searchers started out again about 6:30 a.m., they did so fearing the worst but hoping for the best. ‘We never lost hope. We kept hoping he had found some sort of shelter,’ said police Capt. Tom Balint. Those hopes were rewarded when Michael Anderson and Chris Cruser, volunteers from West Trenton Fire Co., found the elderly man alive, sitting half-hidden in a gully along the Delaware and Raritan Canal, a few hundred yards from where his shoe had been located the night before. The elder Erney, barefoot but still bundled in the long black coat he was wearing when he wandered off, had a body temperature of 79 degrees, his son said. He was rushed by ambulance to the emergency room at Helene Fuld Medical Center, where doctors worked to warm him. The elderly man was in stable condition in the hospital's intensive care unit yesterday, his son said. ‘The family’s doing fine now. We’re all a little tired, but relieved,’ William Erney Jr. said last night. He said his family was ‘extremely grateful’ to Chief Fred Collender of the West Trenton Fire Co., members of Mercer County's central emergency communications center, and the hundreds of others who helped out. ‘We want to thank everyone who supported us through this very trying time,’ he said.
“The ordeal began about 2:30 p.m. Friday when William Erney Jr., who is chief of the Prospect Heights Fire Co., was notified that his father had wandered away from the Horizon Adult Day Care Center on West Upper Ferry Road around 1 p.m. When the elder Erney, who authorities said had walked away from the center once before, could not be located, volunteers from all three Ewing fire companies were called out to help search. A command post was set up at the West Trenton Fire Co. firehouse and additional help was called in from around Mercer County. Within a short time, hundreds of firefighters from 26 volunteer fire companies started a systematic search of the West Trenton area. Meanwhile, Ewing and Trenton police and fire crews at Trenton Mercer Airport and in the city checked other areas. Helicopters from the State Police and National Guard were called in, including a military helicopter employing a heat-seeking camera. Fliers with a picture of the missing man were handed out on the streets and area television and radio stations broadcast his description. After a few hours, a farmer on the Knight Farm reported that he had found a bloody shoe. William Erney Jr., who insisted on helping coordinate the massive search, confirmed the shoe belonged to his father.
“Teams of searchers converged on the farm, located on Grand Avenue across from the West Trenton train station. Two bloodhounds from the Special Operations Group of the state Department of Corrections were brought in to help search. One of the dogs followed a scent along Sullivan Way and onto the grounds of Katzenbach School for the Deaf. The other dog followed a scent along the Delaware & Raritan Canal. Searchers scoured both areas, as well as the nearby links of the Trenton Country Club and the grounds of several surrounding businesses, but nothing was found. Searchers were rotated from the West Trenton firehouse, where the combined ladies auxiliaries of several fire companies cooked hot dishes to feed weary searchers. Resources such as flashlights and fresh walkie-talkie batteries were pooled at the firehouse and distributed to search teams as needed. Sometime later, a team of searchers returned to the Knight Farm. ‘We took about 60 guys and went back to where they had found the shoe,’ said Washington Fire Department Chief John Carr, just one of the hundreds who helped search.
“Carr said searchers went through the area ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ so as not to miss anything. ‘I was totally amazed by how everyone worked,’ he said. ‘Everyone wanted to be involved and do something.’ Carr said searchers found several ‘tiny little drops of blood’ along a farm path. ‘The guys were on their hands and knees, walking, crawling, looking,’ he explained. ‘It was like looking for a needle in a haystack.’ But that search too proved unsuccessful. By 1:30 a.m., all search teams were called in for the night. As they returned to their homes for a few hours sleep, more than one searcher feared that they would return in the morning’s light only to find a body. As soon as William Erney Sr. was found alive yesterday, emergency personnel throughout the region joined the Erney family in breathing a collective sigh of relief. ‘What a Christmas present for the family,’ said Carr.”