January 13, 1997
At 5 p.m. on Monday, January 13, 1997, Rescue 22 was special-called to the scene of a hazardous materials incident at the PSE&G plant on Lamberton Road in Hamilton Township. Rescue 22 did not return to Station 22 until 10 p.m. The account was printed in the Trenton Times on Tuesday, January 14, 1997:
“A tanker truck overturned and spilled about 7,000 gallons of fuel oil on Lamberton Road near the PSE&G plant on Duck Island yesterday, officials said. About 125 emergency workers labored for more than six hours to contain the spill and prevent the fuel from contaminating the nearby Delaware River. By about 9:30 p.m., the tanker had been uprighted and a part of its spilled fuel recovered, officials said. Officials said a private firm specializing in hazardous materials handling will return to the scene today to remove contaminated dirt that had been used to dike the spill. Though the accident remained under investigation last night by township police Patrolman Victor Tobiasz, officials said the driver of the truck, Louis Pickett, 34, of Eastampton, may have been driving too fast around a sharp turn near the PSE&G Mercer Generating Station.
“Pickett, a driver for Dana Transport Services of Paulsboro, had just loaded his 8,000-gallon tanker with 7,300 gallons of fuel at the nearby Mobil Oil plant, officials said. Pickett rounded a left-hand turn about 3:10 p.m. and the truck went over on its right side, said Sgt. Kurt Pizzullo of the police Traffic Bureau. As it flipped, the truck slid against a metal guardrail, its tank ruptured in seven or eight places and the load spilled out, said Chief David Sabo of Rusling Hose Fire Co. Firefighters and hazardous materials technicians from the Hamilton Emergency Response Team were immediately called. They spread absorbent materials and blocked the flow of fuel with dirt mounds prepared with the assistance of the township road department and two front-end loaders provided by PSE&G's Environmental Response Team, officials said. Police Sgt. Richard Herrick and Capt. William McDougall, the township emergency management coordinator, stopped traffic at the power plant and set up a command post about 100 yards from the tanker. Hamilton police’s Safe Neighborhoods Unit helped isolate the site. Herrick warned that the spill had the potential for an explosion.
“Firefighters from Rusling Hose were soon joined by a two-alarm assignment from DeCou Hose, Enterprise, Chesterfield Hose, Mercerville, White Horse, and Lawrence Road fire companies, officials said. Hamilton Emergency Services and Helene Fuld paramedics also stood by. ‘This was a very large scale operation,’ said Sabo, who acted as the incident’s overall commander. State Department of Environmental Protection officials initially warned of possible contamination to the river, about 250 yards from the accident. Fuel leaked from the tanker across the road and into a drainage ditch, officials said. But the ditch, when blocked with dirt mounds, proved to be an effective place to block the flow of oil. ‘There is a natural hollow near the road where all the fuel pooled,’ said Amy Collings, DEP spokeswoman. ‘We have not seen an impact on the Delaware River. We are very fortunate it went into this hollow.’ Because the road was closed, PSE&G opened its gates to permit approved vehicles to pass through to businesses blocked by the accident, said company spokeswoman Valorie Ferrara. Power plant operations were not affected by the spill, she said. Sabo said emergency crews could not prevent the fuel from spilling from the tanker because of all the holes in it. ‘The valves weren't leaking, the tank was just torn open,’ he said.
“When the truck was uprighted, only about 300 gallons of fuel remained in the tank, Sabo said. The containment effort ‘was an outstanding job by everyone involved,’ Sabo said. ‘Because of the weather conditions – about 18 degrees – I have to give credit to everyone who hung in there. It was a very professional job.’ Sabo said he was particularly grateful to Signal 22, a volunteer canteen unit from Trenton, that responded to provide cold emergency workers with coffee and doughnuts. Though most emergency personnel left the scene by 10 p.m., workers from a cleanup firm based in Wilmington, Del., remained, Sabo said. He said they would be working today to remove the contaminated dirt and replace it with ‘clean’ soil. Pizzullo said Pickett, who received only minor injuries during the accident, will be tested for drugs and alcohol, as required by law.”
January 17, 1997
At 9:40 a.m. on Friday, January 17, 1997, the Lawrence Road and Slackwood fire companies were dispatched to a house fire at 2797 Princeton Pike. The fire was apparently started when a pet, probably a cat, inadvertently knocked a stove knob into the on position. The following press release was issued by Lawrence Road Fire Co. to the local media:
“At 9:40 a.m. on January 17, 1997, Lawrence Township police received a 911 call from Linda Bussell, a resident of Pine Knoll Drive. Bussell reported that there was smoke coming from a neighboring house at 2797 Princeton Pike. Volunteers from the Lawrence Road and Slackwood fire companies were dispatched at that time. Lawrence police Patrolman Dave Burns was the first emergency responder to arrive on the scene. Burns discovered that the residents were not home and observed light smoke coming from the roof and heavy smoke from a vent on the first floor of the 2.5-story wood-frame dwelling. Burns went to the rear of the home and kicked in a kitchen door to gain entry. He entered the smoke-filled dwelling and found an unconscious dog (an American Eskimo named ‘Murphy’) on the kitchen floor.
“With assistance from Patrolman Jim Vardanega, Burns carried the dog outside and attempted to revive it with CPR. Unfortunately, the dog was later pronounced dead. At 9:45 a.m. the first firefighter, Slackwood Chief Ed Budzinski, arrived. He observed heavy smoke issuing from the dwelling and immediately radioed other incoming fire units that there was a working fire in the home. The first two pieces of firefighting apparatus, Engine 22-3 and Snorkel 21, arrived one minute later at 9:46 a.m. Lawrence Road Capt. James Pidcock and Firefighters Chris Pangaldi and Michael Ratcliffe forced open the front door and entered the dwelling with a charged hoseline. Firefighter Marty Burch manned the pump controls of Engine 22-3 to supply water to the hose team. ‘There was heavy smoke when we went in. The smoke was banked down to the floor,’ Pidcock recalled. ‘We found the fire in the kitchen.’
“While that crew attacked the flames in the kitchen, Slackwood Capt. Michael Oakley and Firefighters Jack Oakley and John Schafer started to search through the smoke for potential victims. Michael Oakley and Schafer descended into the basement to shut off the electrical service to the home. At the foot of the cellar stairs, they found an unconscious cat. They carried the pet outside, then re-entered and found another unconscious cat and a conscious dog (a Weimaraner named ‘Lucas’). All three pets were turned over to the care of Lawrence EMTs Rick Evans and Mark Peloquin and Lawrence Animal Control Officer Chris Buck. They tried to revive the two unconscious cats. One cat died, but the other (a Calico named ‘Lilly’) survived.
“Meanwhile, Slackwood's Engine 21-1 arrived and laid about 500 feet of 5-inch hose from the burning hose to a hydrant at Princeton Pike and Cresthill Road to supply water for firefighting operations. After the flames in the kitchen were knocked down, firefighters went up to the second floor to search. They encountered heavy heat and smoke. It was then that firefighters realized that the fire had already extended beyond the kitchen because of the dwelling's balloon-frame design. Balloon-frame is a type of construction in which there are no fire stops built inside the walls. Instead, void spaces in the walls run from the basement to the attic, thus providing a route for flames to quickly travel between floors. Authorities estimated that the home is at least 60 years old.
“At 9:49 a.m., a second alarm was struck and the Lawrenceville, Prospect Heights, and Pennington Road fire companies were alerted moments later. Inside the home, firefighters cut holes in the second-floor walls to reach the hidden fire. As soon as the walls were cut open, flames shot out. Capt. Pidcock located a third cat in a second-floor bedroom. Unfortunately, that animal did not survive. Crews attempted to reach the third floor but they were beaten back by extreme heat. At 10:03 a.m., all firefighters were ordered to evacuated the building. At that time, Slackwood Assistant Chief Ken Johnson, Capt. Ron Dziminski, and Firefighter Michael Patanella climbed a ladder to the roof and cut several ventilation holes. Firefighters then regrouped and re-entered the dwelling and battled their way up to the third floor, which was engulfed in flames.
“Lawrence Road Lt. Chris Longo and Firefighters Larry Hoffman, Gary Wasko, and Sonny Kitchen meanwhile ripped down ceilings and opened walls to reach pockets of hidden fire. ‘There was a tremendous amount of fire hidden in the walls. Each time we opened up a wall, we found more fire. The third floor was engulfed,’ said Lawrence Road Deputy Chief John Fleming, who assumed command of the incident at 10:26 a.m.
“Investigators suspect the fire was burning at least 15 to 20 minutes before it was reported to 911. In that time, the fire burned through the kitchen cabinets, into the walls, and up to the top floor. ‘It got so hot in there the door to the refrigerator (on the first floor) melted completely off,’ Fleming said. The fire was declared under control at 10:39 a.m., however firefighters remained on the scene until about 1 p.m. to extinguish hot spots. The entire home sustained heavy smoke and heat damage. On the first floor, the kitchen and stairwell were gutted by fire. A bedroom and the stairwell on the second floor and entire third floor were also gutted by flames. The roof was destroyed...”
January 19, 1997
At 10:44 p.m. on Sunday, January 19, 1997, a second alarm was sounded on Box 51-05 and Engine 22-3 and Rescue 22 was dispatched to 1613 Reed Road in Hopewell Township. The last Lawrence Road firefighters did not return to Station 22 until 3:48 a.m. This account appeared on the New Jersey Firefighters Online website:
“A raging fire tore through a building in the Hopewell Valley Industrial Park on Sunday, January 19, 1997. The blaze in Building D, located in the 1600 block of Reed Road near Interstate 95, was reported about 10:40 p.m. About 90 minutes earlier, firefighters were sent to the same building to extinguish a fire involving a propane-powered heating unit located outside the building, according to Chief Steve Pegram of the Pennington Fire Co. (Station 51). Pegram said firefighters had the malfunctioning heater turned off. He said they then used a heat-gun to check inside the building for any extension. When no flames were found inside, firefighters left. A few workers remained inside the building at that time, but they too left by 10 p.m. It was sometime after that that another fire started. Pegram said investigators suspect that propane running to the heating unit leaked from a cracked pipe into the building and found an ignition source. ‘The building had no fire alarms and no sprinklers. It sits far back from the road,’ Pegram explained. ‘So the fire burned undetected for a while.’
“Finally, a passing motorist spotted the flames and called 911. The Pennington, Union-Titusville (Station 53), and Pennington Road (Station 32) fire companies were dispatched at 10:42 p.m. While he was still more than a half-mile away, Pegram spotted a bright glow in the sky and immediately called for a second alarm. At 10:44 p.m., the West Trenton (Station 33), Hopewell Borough (Station 52), and Lawrence Road (Station 22) fire companies were alerted. Heavy fire was showing through the roof of the two-story, wood-frame building when firefighters pulled up on scene. An exterior attack was ordered and Tower Ladder 51 and Tower Ladder 33 went into master stream operations. To supply water to the ladder pipes, several tankers from Mercer, Hunterdon, Somerset, and Bucks (Pa.) counties were special-called. Pegram estimated that more than 58,000 gallons of water flowed on the fire before it was declared under control. In total, about 125 firefighters braved sub-freezing temperatures to fight the fire. Though several businesses were destroyed, firefighters saved 25 percent of the building (set on the opposite side of a fire wall) from damage.”
February 8, 1997
The service garage of the Ford auto dealership at 2865 Brunswick Pike was damaged by a fire in the early hours of Saturday, February 8, 1997. The fire was reported at 3:54 a.m. Engine 22-3 laid 1,000 feet of 5-inch hose as part of a supply line to a hydrant on Route 1. Engine 22-1 took up a position on Side B of the building, while Rescue 22 set up with its light tower and cascade system on Side A. Lawrence Road firefighters manned several handlines and later assisted in overhaul operations. Station 22 personnel were in service until 9:30 a.m. The following report appeared on the New Jersey Firefighters Online computer website:
“A two-alarm fire heavily damaged the service garage of the Capital City Ford dealership on Saturday, February 8, 1997. The fire at the dealership, which is located on the southbound side of Route 1, was discovered after motion sensors inside the building were disturbed and the burglar alarm was activated. Police Sgt. Richard Stout, who responded to check the alarm, arrived to find smoke pouring from the concrete and metal structure. At 3:54 a.m., the Slackwood (Station 21) and Lawrenceville (Station 23) fire companies were dispatched. ‘There was heavy smoke coming from the rear and the roof,’ Slackwood Chief Ed Budzinski, who was the first firefighter to arrive on scene, recalled. ‘When I looked through one of the garage doors, I could see heavy fire inside.’
“At the point, Budzinski ordered that the first-alarm box be filled and the Lawrence Road (Station 22) and Pennington Road (Station 32) fire companies were dispatched. Just minutes later, as flames broke through the bay doors of the dealership’s service garage area, Budzinski struck the second alarm. Responding on the second alarm were the Hamilton (Station 14), Prospect Heights (Station 31), and West Trenton (Station 33) fire companies. Several LDH lines were laid to supply water to the fire scene and Route 1 was shut down in both directions. Several aerial units, including Snorkel 21, Telesquirt 23, Ladder Tower 23, Ladder Tower 31 and Ladder 14, were placed into position, however an aggressive interior attack with handlines managed to knock the flames down and the ladders’ master streams were never used. The fire was officially declared under control at 5:15 a.m. Signal 22, a volunteer fire and police canteen unit from Trenton, responded to provide coffee and sandwiches to the weary firefighters.
“The service garage area was completely gutted by the fire. The blaze was so intense that a 24-inch steel beam in the roof was visibly twisted and concrete blocks in the walls were cracked open. Several vehicles, including a Trenton EMS ambulance and an undercover police car, that were inside the garage were also destroyed by the fire. Investigators later determined that the fire was accidental in nature and had probably been sparked by a space heater that had been left turned on inside the service manager’s office. The offices and showroom of the dealership sustained some smoke damage, however they remained open for business. The fire was the second in three months to strike a Lawrence automobile dealership. On November 7, 1996, a one-alarm fire damaged a storage room at Lawrence Toyota, which is located on Route 1 right next to Capital City Ford.”
March 5, 1997
At 3:26 p.m. on Wednesday, March 5, 1997, Lawrence Township police dispatched Station 22, Station 21 and Squad 129 on Box 22-10 for a house fire with possible entrapment. Rescue 22 signed on radio at 3:27 p.m. and arrived at 3:28 p.m. to report smoke showing from the 1.5-story dwelling. Led by Capt. Wayne Hannon, Firefighters Steve Amiott and Michael Ratcliffe stretched a 1.75-inch handline into the dwelling and knocked down a small fire in a first-floor bedroom. The bed in the room and surrounding furniture were destroyed. The rest of the house was charged with smoke, so crews from Engine 22-1 and 22-3 and Slackwood’s apparatus performed ventilation and checked for extension. The cause of the fire was later determined to be an 8-year-old girl playing with a cigarette lighter. Lawrence Road firefighters were on scene until 5 p.m. During that time Station 22 was covered by Engine 32-3 and Ladder Tower 33, while Station 21 was covered by Engine 31-1.
April 25, 1997
At 9:01 a.m. on Friday, April 25, 1997, Engine 22-3 was sent to stand by at Station 23 while Lawrenceville firefighters were at a working fire in Princeton Township. At 9:10 a.m., Engine 22-3 was ordered to relocate to the scene of the fire at 200 Hun Road in Princeton. Lawrence Road firefighters assisted in fire suppression and overhaul operations before returning to Station 22 at 11:23 a.m. An elderly woman was killed in the blaze. This account appeared on the New Jersey Firefighters Online computer website:
“An elderly woman was killed when a fire raced through her home on Friday, April 25, 1997. At 8:30 a.m. Princeton Township police received a call from a private alarm company reporting that the fire alarm inside 200 Hun Road had activated. Three minutes later, they received a frantic 911 call reporting that the house was on fire. A heavy smoke condition blanketed the neighborhood when Princeton Fire Chief Rick McKee arrived in the area. McKee said heavy smoke and fire were showing from the dwelling when he pulled up on scene. By that time, residents were already outside. One of them, Sonya Gutman, 70, was lying on the ground near the driveway, McKee said. The elderly woman had apparently been in the kitchen of the house when the fire started and, as a result, suffered severe burns, McKee explained. She had been dragged from the burning home by her dedicated husband, Robert Gutman, with assistance from a neighbor and two maintenance workers from the nearby Hun School, McKee said.
“Princeton firefighters and first aid squad members frantically worked on Sonya Gutman and she was rushed by an ambulance to The Medical Center at Princeton. Unfortunately, she died around 3:15 p.m. that day. Firefighters encountered extreme fire and heat inside the dwelling and the equivalent of three alarms were struck. All three Princeton fire companies responded. They were assisted by the West Windsor (Station 43), Princeton Junction (Station 44), Hopewell (Station 52), Lawrence Road (Station 22), Lawrenceville (Station 23), Kingston (Middlesex County Station 24), and Plainsboro (Middlesex County Station 49) fire companies.
“The fire was brought under control around 10 a.m. The house sustained extensive damage throughout, McKee said. Robert Gutman, a professor at Rutgers University and lecturer at Princeton University, reportedly told investigators that he had been upstairs when he heard what sounded like an explosion come from the downstairs kitchen area where his wife was. Representatives of PSE&G investigated and concluded that an outside gas leak had not caused the blast.”
April 28, 1997
At 12:14 a.m. on Monday, April 28, 1997, Station 22 personnel were dispatched to a one-car accident with entrapment on Eggerts Crossing Road. Rescue 22 signed on radio at 12:15 a.m. and Engine 22-3 signed on radio at 12:16 a.m. This account appeared on the New Jersey Firefighters Online computer website:
“A man was trapped inside his sports car after he crashed into a utility pole in the early hours of Monday, April 28, 1997. It was about 12:10 a.m., during a light rain, when the 50-year-old driver crashed his Trans-Am into the pole outside 361 Eggerts Crossing Road. The man told police that he had been speeding and was attempting to turn onto Albemarle Road when he was blinded by the headlights of an oncoming car. The Lawrence Road Fire Co. was dispatched at 12:14 a.m. According to Mercer County Central Communications, Rescue 22, the first due fire apparatus, arrived on scene at 12:18 a.m. Engine 22-3 arrived one minute later. A 1.75-inch handline was stretched and charged and placed into a standby position as Lawrence Road Capt. Jim Pidcock and Firefighter Mike Byrd went into service with Holmatro rescue tools. Lawrence Road Chief Patrick Kent supervised the operation. Firefighters removed the driver’s side door in just a few minutes, allowing members of the Lawrence First Aid Squad (Squad 129) access to their patient. The driver, amazingly, was not seriously hurt. He was taken by ambulance to Mercer Medical Center, where he was treated and then released. Police said they issued the man a summons for careless driving.”
May 14, 1997
A 23-year-old Rider University student was hit by a station wagon while she was jogging down Lawrence Road near Wayside Lane on Wednesday, May 14, 1997. At 11:31 a.m., Station 22 personnel were dispatched to set up a landing zone at the National Guard Armory on Eggerts Crossing Road. The girl was flown to Cooper Hospital in Camden by the PennStar medivac chopper. She was reportedly released from the hospital several days later.
May 16, 1997
At 7:30 a.m. on Friday, May 16, 1997, Mercer County Central Communication Center dispatched Engine 22-1 to Trenton State College in Ewing for a second alarm on Box 32-21. Lawrence Road firefighters assisted in ventilation operations after a fire broke out in the electrical room of the college nursing building. The fire was under control at 8:16 a.m. and Lawrence Road firefighters cleared the scene about 9 a.m.
May 22, 1997
A motor vehicle accident with entrapment occurred on Interstate 95 on Thursday, May 22, 1997. At 30 a.m., Rescue 22 was special-called to the scene and Lawrence Road firefighters went in service with their Holmatro tools. The following account appeared on the New Jersey Firefighters Online computer website:
“A woman had to be extricated from her sport utility vehicle after it flipped onto its side during heavy traffic on Interstate 95 on the morning of Thursday, May 22, 1997. The 31-year-old Hopewell Township woman was driving her Toyota RAV 4 north on I-95 during morning rush-hour traffic when she stopped abruptly and was rear-ended by a Toyota Celica, driven by a 39-year-old Trenton woman, according to state police. The impact forced the RAV 4 into another lane where it was then struck by a tractor-trailer, state police said. The RAV 4 was knocked onto its passenger’s side by the tractor-trailer and it slid to a rest right on the edge of the highway’s grass median. The tractor-trailer jackknifed and also came to a stop on the median behind the flipped RAV 4.
“At 7:29 a.m. the Lawrenceville Fire Co. (Station 23) and the Lawrence First Aid Squad (Squad 129) were dispatched to the accident scene, which was located between the Princeton Pike and Route 1 exits. At 7:30 a.m., Rescue 22 from the Lawrence Road Fire Co. (Station 22) was dispatched to assist in extrication. Rescuers found the driver of the RAV 4 seriously injured and still strapped into her seat. Lawrenceville firefighters initially started using their Hurst tools to remove the roof of the vehicle. They were relieved by Lawrence Road firefighters who used their Holmatro tools to quickly finish cutting the roof. Rescue 1 from the Trenton Fire Department was also initially dispatched to assist, however they were ultimately not needed and just stood by on scene. Once the roof was cut away, the woman was carefully removed from the wreckage and treated by medics on scene. NorthStar, one of the state police’s medical helicopters, then landed on the highway and the injured woman was bundled aboard. She was flown to the trauma unit at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick. As a result of the crash, morning rush-hour traffic was backed up for miles…”
May 27, 1997
A natural gas leak triggered a structure fire at 113 Review Avenue on Tuesday, May 27, 1997. Station 22 was dispatched on Box 22-10 at 2:14 p.m. Assistance was received from the Slackwood and Lawrenceville fire companies. Chief Patrick Kent declared the fire under control at 3:18 p.m. Lawrence Road firefighters used 450 feet of 1.75-inch hose and 200 feet of 5-inch hose, and remained on the scene until almost 5 p.m. The following account appeared on the New Jersey Firefighters Online computer website:
“Plumbing contractors accidentally started a fire which heavily damaged a house on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 27, 1997. According to police investigators, the plumbers were installing a new hot water heater in the basement of the two-story home when they disconnected a natural gas line that they mistakenly believed they had turned off Natural gas suddenly poured from the disconnected pipe and was ignited by a soldering torch. Unable to control the fire, the plumbers and the resident quickly fled. They told a neighbor to phone 911.
“At 2:14 p.m., the Lawrence Road Fire Co. (Station 22) was dispatched to a reported natural gas leak inside the house at 113 Review Avenue. The Slackwood Fire Co. (Station 21) was automatically dispatched as mutual aid. Lawrence Road Chief Patrick Kent arrived on the scene in less than one minute of the dispatch and found smoke pouring from the rear of the dwelling. At that time, Chief Kent radioed to Mercer County Central and advised them that he had a working fire. Chief Kent also called the crew of the first-due apparatus, Rescue 22, and advised them to mask up and prepare to go in service with an 1-3/4-inch handline upon their arrival. At 2:16 p.m., Mercer County Central dispatched the Lawrence Township First Aid Squad (Squad 129) to stand by at the fire scene.
“One minute later, at 2:17 p.m., Chief Kent called for the second alarm and the Lawrenceville Fire Co. (Station 23) was dispatched. Rescue 22 arrived on scene at 2:17 p.m. and Firefighters Ryan Quill, Tim Kasony Jr., Gary Wasko and Michael Ratcliffe entered the rear first-floor of the burning house with a charged handline. Heavy smoke made visibility impossible inside the first room (a utility/laundry room) they entered. The firefighters made their way into the next room (a large den) where they found flames rolling across the ceiling. Meanwhile, Engine 22-3 laid 200 feet of 5-inch hose to supply Rescue 22, as the crew from Engine 21-2 stretched a second line into the house. After extinguishing flames in the den, firefighters fought their way down into the basement, where they encountered heavy fire and intense smoke and heat. Because firefighters were unable to reach the gas meter in the basement and shut off the flowing gas, all crews were temporarily ordered out of the building.
“At 2:38 p.m., PSE&G workers finally arrived and turned the gas off at the curb, and firefighters were allowed to reenter the burning structure. At 3:18 p.m., the fire was officially declared under control. The basement and first floor sustained heavy fire, smoke, heat and water damage. The remainder of the dwelling sustained heavy smoke damage. There were no injuries reported, although all firefighters were checked out as a precaution by the first aid squad. While all three Lawrence companies were operating at the fire, their empty stations were covered by the Prospect Heights (Station 31), Pennington Road (Station 32), West Trenton (Station 33), and Pennington Borough (Station 51) fire companies. The fire was ruled accidental in nature. It was investigated by Lawrence Police Patrolman Dave Burns and Detective Al Veltri, Lawrence Fire Inspector Rich Soltis, and Investigator Lloyd Mathis of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office.”
June 14, 1997
From 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 14, 1997, Engine 22-3 stood by at the Edgely Fire Co. in Bristol Township, Pa., during the annual Bucks County Firemen’s Parade. During the standby at 3:30 p.m., Engine 22-3 was dispatched to a working tractor fire in the 1600 block of Manning Boulevard.
June 26, 1997
A stubborn junkyard yard in East Amwell Township, Hunterdon County, prompted a response from scores of firefighters on Thursday, June 26, 1997. At 4:21 p.m. Rescue 22 was dispatched to cover the Hopewell firehouse. At 4:39 p.m. Rescue 22 was ordered to responded to the fire scene. Lawrence Road firefighters were in service until 9:34 p.m. helping to fight the fire. The cascade system onboard Rescue 22 was used to fill about 50 SCBA bottles. The following story appeared on the New Jersey Firefighters Online computer website:
“Firefighters from two states were need to battle a stubborn fire in an old junkyard on Thursday, June 26, 1997. The blaze occurred at Meszaro’s Junkyard, which is located in an isolated section of woods near South Hill and Lindberg roads. The Hopewell Fire Department (Mercer County Station 52), which is under contract to protect that section of East Amwell, was dispatched at 3:49 p.m. While still about two miles from the scene, Hopewell Borough firefighters spotted a tall column of smoke rising over the trees. When Hopewell Chief Greg Peck arrived on the scene, he found a large area of old tires, wrecked vehicles and propane tanks burning. At that time, the Pennington (Mercer County Station 51) and Union (Mercer County Station 53) fire companies were dispatched.
“Tankers from other nearby fire companies were also special-called to help relay water from a hydrant at the corner of Broad and Elm streets in Hopewell Borough. Handlines were stretched into the burning junkyard and firefighters began the long, grueling process of attacking the flames. Because of the fire’s dense smoke and the fact that it was not entirely known if any hazardous materials were burning, all firefighters were ordered to wear SCBA. Rescue 22 from the Lawrence Road Fire Co. (Mercer County Station 22) was called to the scene for its onboard cascade system. Ultimately, more than 50 air bottles were filled.
“Once of the tanker shuttle was established, portable deluge guns were placed into service. Firefighters managed to save a trailer home from damage and the blaze was placed under control at 5:13 p.m. However, because the fire continued to smolder beneath the large mounds of old tires and other debris, firefighters spent several hours overhauling the junkyard. A front-end loader was eventually called in to help move some of the rubbish. The Hunterdon County Hazardous Materials Unit and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection responded to monitor air quality, and to also decontaminate firefighters. A mobile command post from the Hunterdon County Office of Emergency Management also responded. Ambulance crews and firefighters’ ladies auxiliary members stood by on the scene to care for weary firefighters andrefresh them with cold drinks and hot sandwiches.
“Two firefighters suffered minor heat-related injuries and were taken to a local hospital for treatment. Firefighters finally cleared the scene around 10 p.m. Among the many mutual aid fire companies that sent manpower and equipment to the scene were: Lawrenceville (Mercer County Station 23), Sergeantsville (Hunterdon County Station 47), Amwell Valley (Hunterdon County Station 48), Griggstown Fire Co. (Somerset County Station 35), Montgomery #1 (Somerset County Station 45), Montgomery #2 (Somerset County Station 46), Neshanic (Somerset County Station 48), and Upper Makefield (Bucks County, Pa., Station 71). Investigators from the state police and Hunterdon County Fire Marshal’s Office later determined that the fire had been accidentally started by workers using an acetylene torch to cut materials. A similar fire occurred at the junkyard on Monday, July 24, 1995. That blaze, reportedly sparked by an overloaded electrical cord, destroyed a garage and several small trailers.”
June 27, 1997
At 1:06 p.m. on Friday, June 27, 1997, the Lawrenceville and Lawrence Road fire companies were alerted to a structure fire at 11 Craven Lane. Heavy smoke was showing from the eaves of the 2.5-story dwelling. Engine 22-3, which signed on radio at 1:07 p.m. and arrived on scene at 1:11 p.m., laid 300 feet of 5-inch hose to supply Ladder Tower 23. Engine 22-3’s crew then proceeded up Ladder Tower 23 to open up the roof with a 4-by-4 foot ventilation hole. The fire was contained to the roof area, with fire control damage to an top-floor room. The fire was declared under control at 1:33 p.m. and Station 22 personnel cleared the scene about 2:15 p.m. During the incident, Station 22 was covered by Engine 32-3 and Ladder 14.
August 2, 1997
At 2:08 p.m. on Saturday, August 2, 1997, the Lawrence Road Fire Co. was dispatched to assist Slackwood firefighters extinguish a blaze involving a trailer filled with cardboard boxes behind Acme supermarket at Lawrence Shopping Center. Engines 22-1 and 22-3 responded. Engine 22-3 supplied Engine 21-1 with its tank water. The fire was declared under control at 2:19 p.m. and Lawrence Road firefighters cleared the scene at 2:37 p.m.
August 6, 1997
Flames damaged part of the home at 144 Texas Avenue in the early morning hours of Wednesday, August 6, 1997. Slackwood Fire Co. was dispatched at 2:08 a.m. and Lawrence Road firefighters were alerted to the blaze a just minutes later. All three engines responded from Station 22. Engine 22-3 laid 600 feet of 5-inch hose to supply Engine 21-1. During the fire, Engine 32-3 stood by at Station 22. The following account was printed in the Trenton Times on Thursday, August 7, 1997:
“Flames heavily damaged a two-story house in the 100 block of Texas Avenue early yesterday morning. Slackwood Fire Co. volunteers were alerted to the blaze at 2:08 a.m. and, moments later, members of the Lawrence Road Fire Co. and Lawrence First Aid Squad were sent to assist. Firefighters found the rear of the house consumed in flames. They forced their way into the home and searched for trapped occupants, but found no one home. Firefighters discovered that the fire, which had apparently started on the home’s rear deck, had burned up the outside of the building, into a second-floor bedroom and up to part of the attic crawl space. Firefighters, who were directed by Slackwood Chief Ed Budzinski, brought the blaze under control by 2:37 a.m., although they remained on the scene until after 4 a.m. to douse smoldering embers. In addition to the fire and heat damage to the rear wall, the second-floor bedroom and attic area, the entire house sustained smoke damage. Fire officials said the blaze was accidental and may have been started by a fault in an outside electrical outlet. The exact cause remains under investigation.”
August 7, 1997
At 4:22 p.m. on Thursday, August 7, 1997, Engine 22-3 was dispatched to stand by at Station 32 during a house fire at 52 Bayberry Road. At 4:38 p.m., Engine 22-3 was relocated to the fireground to assist in ventilation of the fire building. Lawrence Road firefighters later assisted in picking up 1,000 feet of large diameter hose. Engine 22-3 cleared the scene at 5:23 p.m. This account appeared on the New Jersey Firefighters Online computer website:
“A pet rabbit was saved by firefighters from a fire that heavily damaged a large, single-family dwelling on Thursday, August 7, 1997. The blaze, located at 52 Bayberry Road, was reported at 4:17 p.m. At that time, Ewing firefighters were on another assignment (fallen power lines) on Upper Ferry Road. As a result, they were able to respond immediately and were on scene just minutes later. Heavy smoke was showing from the three-story structure when firefighters arrived on location and went to work. Members of the district fire company, Pennington Road (Station 32), were assisted by members of the township's two other fire companies, Prospect Heights (Station 31) and West Trenton (Station 33). Mutual aid engines were also called (for manpower needs) from the Slackwood (Station 21), Lawrence Road (Station 22), and Lawrenceville (Station 23) fire companies of Lawrence Township. Engine 8 from the City of Trenton was also special-called. The blaze, which may have been electrical in origin, was officially placed under control at 5:23 p.m.”
August 16, 1997
At 7:22 p.m. on Saturday, August 16, 1997, Engine 22-3 was dispatched to stand by at the Lawrenceville firehouse during a hazardous materials incident at Rider University. At 7:30 p.m. Engine 22-3 was redirected to the university to assist. Rescue 22 was special-called to the scene at 7:54 p.m. The following story appeared on the New Jersey Firefighters Online computer website:
“A leaking cylinder created a hazardous materials situation at Rider University on Saturday, August 16, 1997. The leak, located inside one of the rooms in the science building, was detected by university employees about 7 p.m. Lawrenceville Fire Co. was alerted at 7:08 p.m. after a reading of about 3,000 parts-per-million was detected inside the building by campus security. Firefighters from the first arriving unit, Tower Ladder 23, wearing full turnout gear and SCBA, were ordered by Lawrenceville Second Assistant Chief Tom Everist to briefly enter the building. Because firefighters were unable to determine what was leaking or what type of chemical was involved, the building was evacuated and mutual aid was immediately requested from Trenton’s HazMat Task Force.
“Trenton’s Rescue 1, Engine 1, Ladder 1 and Battalion Chief Tom Andahazy soon arrived. Engines were also special-called to the scene from the township’s two other fire companies, Lawrence Road and Slackwood. Lawrenceville Chief Fred ‘Butch’ Bentley then arrived and assumed command. HazMat Technicians from Rescue 1 made several trips into the science building. They eventually discovered that some type of ammonia-based product was leaking from a large cylinder. Because several entries needed to be made into the building, additional HazMat technicians were needed, so Trenton’s Engine 9 was special-called to the scene. For cascade and lighting needs, Lawrence Road’s Rescue 22 and Special Services 14 from the Enterprise Fire Co. of Hamilton were also special-called to the scene. Signal 22, Trenton’s volunteer fire and police canteen unit, was also brought to the scene to provide firefighters with refreshments. Medics from Lawrence and Ewing stood by on scene, but there were no injuries. The leak was eventually plugged and the building ventilated just before midnight. The last firefighters cleared the scene about 12:30 a.m.”
August 22, 1997
At 7:33 a.m. on Friday, August 22, 1997, Rescue 22 was sent to a motor vehicle accident with entrapment on Quakerbridge Road near the PSE&G facility. Lawrence Road firefighters used their Holmatro tools to pop open a door to free the driver of the vehicle. Rescue 22 was back at Station 22 by 8:22 a.m.
August 27, 1997
A stolen car that was being chased by Lawrence police overturned on the front lawn of a home at the corner of Eggerts Crossing Road and Bunker Hill Road in the early house of Wednesday, August 27, 1997. Lawrence Road firefighters were dispatched at 5:24 a.m. and responded with Rescue 22 and Engine 22-3. The car was empty when firefighters arrived. Station 22 personnel stood by until a wrecker removed the vehicle about 6:10 a.m.
October 9, 1997
At 7:10 p.m. on Thursday, October 9, 1997, Rescue 22 was dispatched on a cascade assignment to 8 Fox Run in Hopewell Township. Rescue 22 arrived on location at 7:26 p.m. and its crew was put to use manning a 1.75-inch handline on the second floor of the burning dwelling. Lawrence Road firefighters also assisted in ventilating the structure by taking out several of the windows on the second floor. At 9:13 p.m. Engine 22-3 was dispatched to stand by at Station 52. Rescue 22 remained on the fireground until 10:45 p.m., while Engine 22-3 covered Station 52 until 11:45 p.m. The following account appeared on the New Jersey Firefighters Online computer website:
“An apparent delay in calling 911 allowed a small fire to turn into a raging inferno inside a home that was said to be worth approximately a half-million dollars on Thursday, October 9, 1997. According to police, the blaze in the two-story dwelling at 8 Fox Run Road, located off of Woodsville Road (Route 612), started when a resident mistakenly placed a box of tissues on top of a halogen lamp in a second-floor bedroom. Fire officials said the residents discovered the blaze and spent several minutes in an unsuccessful attempt to fight the flames with pails of water. The residents then allegedly got a fire extinguisher from their garage but, because they did not know how to use it, they ran to a neighbor’s home for help. But the neighbors also reportedly did not know how to use the extinguisher, according to fire officials. Finally, sometime during all the confusion, someone called 911 to report the blaze.
“The Hopewell Fire Department, with automatic mutual aid unit from the Pennington Fire Co. and the Union Fire Co. of Titusville, was dispatched at 7 p.m., according to Mercer County dispatch records. The first apparatus, Engine 52, signed on radio at 7:03 p.m. One minute later, at 7:04 p.m., Chief 51 arrived on the scene and reported a working fire. At 7:09 p.m., both Engine 52 and Ladder Tower 51 arrived on location, taking up positions in the driveway of the burning home. Heavy fire broke through the attic of the dwelling as additional firefighters arrived. Because there were no hydrants in the immediate area, a tanker shuttle had to be established. In addition to Tankers 52, 51 and 53, tankers from Montgomery Fire Co. #2 (Somerset County Station 46) and Sergeantsville Fire Co. (Hunterdon County Station 47) were utilized. An engine from Lawrenceville Fire Co. was dispatched to Hiohelia Lake on Route 31 to refill the tankers. Rescue 22 from Lawrence Road Fire Co. was ordered to the scene for the use of its onboard cascade system, with its manpower being utilized as a FAST Team. An engine from the Rocky Hill Hook & Ladder Co. (Somerset County Station 53) also responded for manpower.
“Using Tower Ladder 51 and 2.5-inch lines, firefighters darkened down the fire in the attic, and then made an aggressive interior attack with 1.75-inch handlines. As they operated on the second floor, firefighters had parts of the ceiling collapse on them and several members briefly became entangled in electrical wires that also dropped down. The fire was under control at 8:05 p.m., however firefighters spent several more hours searching for hot spots. Ultimately, the attic and roof were burned almost entirely off the structure. The second floor sustained heavy fire damage, so much so that the floor in one second-floor room was burned away. The first floor sustained major water damage. All firefighters were checked out by EMS personnel on the scene, and at least one firefighter was treated for a minor injury.”
November 15, 1997
A hazardous materials incident involving an overturned tanker occurred on Saturday, November 15, 1997. Rescue 22 was special-called to the scene on Carson Road at 10:33 a.m. and Engine 22-3 was special-called at 10:43 a.m. Rescue 22 was positioned on the west side of the overturned tanker and a 1.75-inch handline stretched as a precaution. Lawrence Road firefighters helped dike the spill, then stood by while Trenton’s HazMat team operated. Station 22 personnel were on the job until 1:57 p.m. This account appeared on the New Jersey Firefighters Online computer website:
“A tanker truck overturned and spilled more than 1,000 gallons of No. 2 home heating oil on Saturday, November 15, 1997. The accident occurred on Carson Road, near Province Line Road, when the driver lost control and the rig flipped onto its side. The truck slid a short distance across the roadway and then its cab slammed into a tree. Immediately, oil began gushing from a tear in the tanker’s lining. The oil drained off the roadway and into a shallow ditch running alongside Carson Road. The oil then began to flow downhill toward Province Line Road. Lawrenceville Fire Co. was alerted at 10:27 a.m. Lawrenceville Deputy Chief Bob Brackett was the first officer to sign on radio. He quickly requested that the Trenton’s Fire Department’s Hazardous Materials Task Force be dispatched mutual aid to the scene.
“In an attempt to stop the oil from reaching a sewer drain at the corner of Carson and Province Line roads, the first arriving Lawrenceville firefighters started using shovels to dig up the nearby ground to create dirt dams in several places along the path the oil was flowing. Absorbent pads and booms were also strategically placed in the oil’s way. Because the operations was manpower intensive, additional help was sent to the scene from Lawrence Road Fire Co. at 10:33 a.m. Trenton’s HazMat units (Rescue 1, Engine 1, and Ladder 1, under the command of Acting Battalion Chief Rick Farletta) arrived on location at 10:48 a.m. While Trenton HazMat technicians suited up, Lawrence firefighters continued their effort to dike the spill. Two handlines were also stretched into position (one on either side of the flipped tanker) as a precaution.
“Fortunately, the Trenton personnel managed to quickly seal up the leak, with an estimated 500 gallons of oil still inside the tanker. The situation was declared under control at 11:02 a.m. Signal 22, the volunteer fire and police canteen unit from Trenton, was called out to provide firefighters with hot coffee and sandwiches. During the operation, Station 23 was covered by the Slackwood Fire Co., while Station 22 was covered by the Prospect Heights Fire Co. A representative of the state Department of Environmental Protection eventually arrived and supervised the cleanup, which was conducted by a private recovery company hired by the owners of the wrecked tanker. Once the tanker was uprighted by a tow truck, firefighters were released from the scene around 2 p.m. The cleanup operation continued throughout the day. Ultimately more than 1,000 gallons of oil were recovered from the ground.”
December 5, 1997
An elderly couple died when flames raced through their residence at 18 Stonicker Drive on the morning of Friday, December 5, 1997. Station 22 was dispatched at 12:42 a.m. to assist on Box 21-02 and Rescue 22, Engine 22-3 and Utility 22 responded. Lawrence Road firefighters assisted in ventilation and fire suppression and were on the scene until 3 a.m. This account appeared on the New Jersey Firefighters Online computer website:
“An elderly couple perished when flames raced through their home in the early hours of Friday, December 5, 1997. It was 12:36 a.m. when crews from the Slackwood and Lawrenceville fire companies were dispatched for a house fire with possible entrapment at 18 Stonicker Drive. Slackwood Chief Ed Budzinski signed on radio at 12:38 a.m. He was immediately advised by a Lawrence police dispatcher that neighbors were calling 911 to report that heavy smoke was coming from the front of the house. At that time, Budzinski requested that Lawrence First Aid Squad (Squad 129) be dispatched to the scene. Budzinski arrived on location at 12:41 a.m. and spotted heavy fire and smoke on the first floor inside the two-story dwelling. At that time, Budzinski called for additional resources from the township’s remaining fire company, Lawrence Road, and the Pennington Road Fire Co. of Ewing Township.
“Without the protection of a hoseline, police officers and Budzinski forced entry into the burning home and located one of the victims, 76-year-old George Carroll, on the floor just inside the front entrance way. The victim was removed from the house at 12:45 a.m. but he was already dead. Slackwood’s first-due apparatus, Engine 21-1, arrived on the scene at 12:44 a.m. It was closely followed by: Snorkel 21 and Engine 23-2 at 12:45 a.m.; Engine 21-2 and Engine 22-3 at 12:48 a.m.; Engine 23-3 at 12:49 a.m.; Rescue 22 at 12:50 a.m., and Telesquirt 23 and Ladder 23 at 12:51 a.m. Several other support units, including Special Services 32 (cascade), arrived later. Firefighters were told that the dead man’s elderly wife, 76-year-old Helen Carroll, was still inside, but her location was unknown.
“At first, firefighters were told she was on the second floor. While crews worked a handline on the fire in the first-floor living room, another crew attempted to advance another line up a stairwell to the second floor. But their efforts were hampered by extreme heat. Firefighters then laddered the house, smashed out the second-floor windows, and made entry through the windows there. At 12:57 a.m., Helen Carroll was found lying dead on a couch in the first-floor living room. Her body was badly burned. The living room (the room of origin) was entirely gutted, with part of the ceiling burned away. The second-floor room above the living room also sustained heavy fire damage. The rest of the house sustained heavy smoke and heat damage. The fire was declared under control at 1:24 a.m. It was later determined that a cigarette started the fire, but it was unclear if Helen Carroll fell asleep or if she suffered a heart attack that caused her to drop the cigarette. No evidence of any smoke detectors was found in the house.”
December 20, 1997
At 1 p.m. on Saturday, December 20, 1997, Rescue 22 was special called by Rescue Lt. 129-1 (Michael Byrd) to the scene of a motor vehicle accident with entrapment on Franklin Corner Road near Route 1. Lawrence Road firefighter went in service with their Holmatro tools and were on scene until 1:53 p.m. This account appeared on the New Jersey Firefighters Online computer website:
“A car and a sport utility vehicle collided on the afternoon of Saturday, December 20, 1997, and rescuers had to cut off the roof of the car to free its driver. The accident occurred at about 12:45 p.m. on Franklin Corner Road near Route 1 when the sport utility vehicle turned left out of a gas station and headed west up Franklin Corner just as the car pulled out of the rear exit of the nearby Howard Johnson motel. The driver of the sport utility, a 27-year-old man from Massachusetts, tried to stop when the car appeared in front of him, but the collision was unavoidable, police said. The sport utility slammed into the driver’s side of the car, crushing it inward.
“At 12:56 p.m., Lawrenceville Fire Co. and the heavy rescue unit from the Lawrence First Aid Squad were dispatched for what police called a minor door pop. But when they arrived on scene, rescuers found the driver of the car, a 72-year-old man from Monroe, N.J., pinned in his seat, trapped by the crumpled driver’s side door and the steering column. At about 1 p.m., Rescue 22 from the Lawrence Road Fire Co. was special-called to assist in the extrication. The extrication certainly proved to be more than just a door pop, as rescuers were required to remove the roof and driver’s side door of the car before medics were able to package and remove the victim. The elderly man was then rushed to Helene Fuld Medical Center in Trenton, where he was admitted in guarded condition. Injuries to the driver of the sport utility and a passenger in the car were reportedly minor in nature. The road remained closed for about an hour while police investigated.”
February 13, 1998
At 1:59 p.m. on Friday, February 13, 1998, Box 52-20 was transmitted for a working fire at 152 Hopewell-Rocky Hill Road in Hopewell Township. At 2:02 p.m., Rescue 22 was dispatched for cascade duties. Rescue 22 responded in three minutes and arrived at 2:19 p.m. While Firefighter Michael Peterson filled 10 SCBA bottles, the rest of Rescue 22’s crews assisted in firefighting operations and in cutting a vent hole in the roof of the fire building (an unattached garage, about 15-feet by 40-feet in size). The blaze, which had been caused by careless smoking, heavily damaged the garage’s interior. The fire was placed under control at 2:29 p.m.
February 14, 1998
On the evening of Saturday, February 14, 1998, the annual Old Timers’ Night dinner/dance was held in the firehouse banquet hall. The theme was “A Winter Wonderland.” Honored during the evening were Joe Colavita, John Fleming and Wayne Hannon, who were all awarded life membership status. Among the many guests attending the dinner were Firefighter Matt Zarych from the London Fire Brigade and his girlfriend (and future wife) Wendy Williams.
February 15, 1998
At 12:18 a.m. on Sunday, February 15, 1998, as Lawrence Road’s annual dinner/dance was coming to an end, Box 52-20 was again sounded for a working fire at 1007 Cherry Valley Road in Hopewell Township. A passing motorist had spotted smoke coming from the two-story dwelling (which was being remodeled and was unoccupied at the time). Station 52 units arrived to find heavy fire coming from both floors. Rescue 22 was dispatched at 12:35 a.m. and arrived at 12:49 a.m. Firefighter Ryan Quill filled about 15 SCBA bottles, while Capt. Wayne Hannon and the rest of Rescue 22’s crew stood by as a FAST Team. The fire, which had been left smoldering in the fireplace, spread to the rest of the house though cracks in the chimney. Damage was so extensive that ceilings and floors collapsed in several areas. The blaze was under control by 1:07 a.m. and Rescue 22 was in quarters by 2:17 a.m.
March 27, 1998
At 9:37 a.m. on Friday, March 27, 1998, Rescue 22 was dispatched on Box 51-06 to a working structure fire at 25 Yard Road. The fire building was a 1.5-story single-family dwelling. The fire was under control at 9:53 a.m. While Firefighter Ryan Quill operated the cascade system, Capt. James Pidcock and Firefighter Michael Byrd opened up an interior wall to check for extension while Firefighters Chris Pangaldi and Michael Ratcliffe laddered the roof to check a soffit area for extension. Rescue 22 was back in quarters by 10:47 a.m.
April 8, 1998
On Wednesday, April 8, 1998, a motorist lost control of his car while traveling in the southbound lanes of Route 1 near Quaker Bridge Mall. The car left the roadway and crashed into John’s Truck Stop, located just south of the ramp leading to Route 1 from the mall parking lot. The car hit a concrete post in front of one of the gas pumps, went airborne, and flipped over onto its roof. Amazingly, none of the gas pumps were damaged and the driver, who was not seriously hurt, was able to free himself. However, a 33-year-old station worker who was pumping gas nearby was knocked down by the car and pinned beneath its hood and windshield. Lawrenceville Fire Co. and Lawrence First Aid Squad were dispatched at 7:32 p.m. At 7:40 p.m., Rescue 22 was special-called to help extricate the trapped man. Rescue 22 arrived at 7:49 p.m. and went in service with high-pressure air bags to lift the overturned car. Rescue 22’s light tower was also set up to help illuminate the scene. The man, who suffered severe leg injuries, was freed at 7:58 p.m. A medivac helicopter, which landed on Interstate 95, flew the man to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.
April 21, 1998
At 5:19 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21, 1998, Station 22 was dispatched to the area of Hillcrest Avenue for a fire in the woods. Members responding to the firehouse observed a tall column of black smoke rising into the air from that direction. Just minutes earlier, all three Ewing Township fire companies were dispatched to a working structure fire at the end of Euchner Lane, off Eggerts Crossing Road along the Ewing-Lawrence border. When Deputy Chief John Fleming arrived on Hillcrest Avenue, he discovered that Lawrence Road’s reported woods fire was actually Ewing’s house fire. The building, a vacant 1.5-story structure, was fully-involved, with flames burning from the basement to the roof.
As Ewing firefighters tried to access the burning structure from Euchner Lane, Rescue 22 arrived on Hillcrest Avenue and Lawrence Road firefighters immediately placed a 2.5-inch handline in service on Side D of the building. Engine 22-3 arrived next and laid 200 feet of 5-inch hose from Rescue 22 to a hydrant on Hillcrest Avenue. A second 2.5-inch handline and one 1.75-inch handline were then stretched from Rescue 22.
A total of 350 feet of 2.5-inch hose and 200 feet of 1.75-inch hose were used to make up the three handlines. Engine 22-1 and Utility 22 also responded. Chief Patrick Kent assumed command of Lawrence Road’s crews. Soon after water was placed on the fire, the roof collapsed. Several more handlines and a master stream from Prospect Heights’ Squirt 31 were placed in service on Side A by Ewing firefighters. The fire was controlled by 5:48 p.m. Ewing police later ruled the fire an arson and said three juveniles had been seen running from the home just before the fire broke out.
May 14, 1998
At about 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 14, 1998, a van and a car collided on Whitehead Road near Lakedale Drive. When they arrived on location, Squad 129 found that there was entrapment. Station 21 and Rescue 129 were dispatched. Due to the severity of the injuries, two medivac choppers were requested. At that time, Slackwood Chief Ed Budzinski requested that Station 22 be dispatched to set up a landing zone at the Brunswick Circle. As there was still no response from Rescue 129 when Rescue 22 signed on radio, Rescue 22 was ordered to respond directly to the accident scene to perform the extrication. Just as Rescue 22 was arriving on location, Station 21 crews and EMS personnel managed to free the entrapped victim. As a result, Rescue 22 was directed to the Brunswick Circle to secure the landing zone. Ultimately, one victim was flown, while another was taken to the hospital by ambulance.
May 20, 1998
At 11:13 a.m. on Wednesday, May 20, 1998, all three Ewing Township fire companies were dispatched to a working fire in one of the dryers at the Homasote plant on Lower Ferry Road. At 11:22 a.m., Ladder Tower 51 was special-called on the first alarm. The second alarm, which was transmitted at 11:27 a.m., included Engine 22-3, Engine 21-3, an engine from Station 53, and Ladder Tower 80 (Yardley-Makefield Fire Co.). The crew from Engine 22-3 (which included Capt. James Pidcock and Firefighters Ryan Quill, Michael Peterson and Chris Pangaldi) assisted in overhauling the burned dryer. Due to the morning’s already high temperatures (in the 90s) and the hotter conditions inside the fire building, manpower was rotated so each man only spent about 15 minutes working. The fire was declared under control at 11:57 a.m. and Lawrence Road firefighters returned to Station 22 at 12:09 p.m.
June 12, 1998
About 1:23 a.m. on Friday, June 12, 1998, Ewing police responded to the Trenton County Club at 201 Sullivan Way to check on a burglar alarm. They arrived to find a one-story caddyshack fully-involved with flames extending to an attached two-story wood-frame cottage and threatening a one-story concrete storage building housing several golf carts. Box 33-10 was transmitted at 1:30 a.m. and all three Ewing Township fire companies responded.
At 1:43 a.m., Engine 22-3 was dispatched to cover Station 32. At 2:12 a.m., West Trenton Chief Ralf Brandmaier called for the second alarm and Engine 22-3 moved up to the scene. Engine 22-3’s crew (Capt. James Pidcock and Firefighters Michael Byrd, Steve Amiott, Gary Wasko, and Michael Ratcliffe) were sent to man a 1.75-inch handline in the golf cart exposure building. By that time, the roof of the caddyshack had collapsed and the bulk of the fire had been knocked down by master streams from Telesquirt 32 and Squirt 31. Once the exposure building was safe, Engine 22-3’s crew reported to the second floor of the cottage to open walls and pull the ceiling to access hidden pockets of fire.
Interior crews were hampered by several layers of material in the ceiling. Smoke soon began to bank down on the second floor as the fire remained out of reach. At that time, interior crews backed out and Telesquirt 32 opened up with its master stream. Meanwhile, Engine 22-3’s crew rested at the Signal 22 canteen. A short time later, Telesquirt 32 shut down and firefighters went back inside to finish pulling the ceiling. It was during this operation that Lawrence Road Firefighter Gary Wasko had his left foot punctured by a nail that went through the side of his boot. He was treated on scene by Pennington Road First Aid Squad.
A West Trenton firefighter was also injured. He was treated at Mercer Medical Center for smoke inhalation. The fire was under control at 4:42 a.m. In the end, the caddyshack (along with thousands of expensive golf clubs belonging to country club members) was destroyed and the cottage was extensively damaged. Apparatus from the following fire companies also operated on scene: Pennington, Slackwood, Yardley-Makefield, DeCou, and Trenton Rescue 1. Engine 22-3 was back in quarters by 5:30 a.m. The cause of the fire was later ruled to be an electrical fault in a soda machine located outside the caddyshack.
June 14, 1998
At 3:20 a.m. on Sunday, June 14, 1998, Mercer County Central Communications Center transmitted Box 51-03, calling for a full-station response from the Pennington Fire Co. to a working fire at 78 Blackwell Road in Hopewell Township. Also dispatched on the box were: Tanker 52, Tanker 53, Telesquirt 32, and Telesquirt 23. Prior to the arrival of firefighters, several Hopewell Township police officers reached the scene and learned that a smoke detector had alerted residents to the fire in their kitchen. The police officers entered the house and used portable extinguishers to attack the fire. At 3:29 a.m., Rescue 22 was dispatched for cascade duties. The fire was quickly contained to the kitchen and was declared under control by 3:50 a.m. Rescue 22’s crew filled three SCBA bottles and helped in overhauling. Investigators later determined that the blaze had been started when wires inside a kitchen wall short-circuited.
June 20, 1998
Also on Saturday, June 20, 1998, Engine 22-3 was dispatched at 10:53 p.m. to cover Engine 1 in Trenton. At the time, city firefighters were committed at three incidents: a structural collapse on Mercer Street; a kitchen fire on Southard Street, and a building fire on Muirhead Avenue. All three incidents occurred during a violent thunderstorm. Engine 1 returned at 11:37 p.m., so Engine 22-3 was relocated to Fire Headquarters to cover Engine 10. Finally, Engine 22-3 was released and was back at Station 22 by 12:15 a.m.
June 23, 1998
On the morning of Tuesday, June 23, 1998, a child playing with matches started a blaze inside the rectory of the Damascus Christian Church at 337 Centre Street in Trenton. Three alarms were quickly struck as city firefighters struggled to prevent the flames from spreading from the rectory into the historic church. At 11 a.m., Engine 22-3 was sent to cover Engine 1. The blaze was declared under control at 12:11 p.m. Although the rectory was destroyed, the church was saved. Engine 22-3 was back in Lawrence by 2 p.m.
July 2, 1998
At 2:14 a.m. on Thursday, July 2, 1998, the Pennington Fire Co. was dispatched on Box 51-04 to investigate an odor of smoke inside the one-story residence at 2356 Pennington Road in Hopewell Township. When Pennington Chief Jason Belmont arrived on scene, he found that a faulty light fixture had ignited a fire near a front doorway and that flames had already extended into the attic void and were starting to burn through the roof. Telesquirt 32 and Telesquirt 23 had already been toned out when the other first-alarm units (Tanker 52, Tanker 53, Rescue 22 and Engine 23-2) were dispatched at 2:26 a.m.
Rescue 22, the second engine on scene, arrived at 2:35 a.m. Rescue 22’s crew immediately assisted in fighting the fire. While Capt. James Pidcock and Firefighter Michael Byrd entered and helped pull ceilings, Firefighters Gary Wasko and Michael Ratcliffe went to the roof to help ventilate. Firefighter Charles Commini later came to the roof to assist. At 2:29 a.m., Tower Ladder 33 and Engine 33-2 from the West Trenton Fire Co. were dispatched on the second alarm. Engine 52 and Engine 22-3 were later added on the second alarm.
Initially, the first-due engine (Rescue 51) was supplied water by the tankers on the scene. But later, a supply line consisting of more than 2,000 feet of large diameter hose was laid to the nearest hydrant. Firefighters were able to contain flames to the front foyer and attic, but the rest of the home sustained smoke and water damage. The situation was under control by 3 a.m.
July 7, 1998
On Tuesday, July 7, 1998, part of a two-story warehouse collapsed on Mott Street in Trenton, requiring a response from many city fire companies, as well as members of the newly-formed New Jersey Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1. At 4:46 p.m. a working structure fire was reported at 13 Bond Street. Engines 5, 1, 10 and 2, and Ladders 1 and 3 responded and battled the blaze. At that time, Trenton’s cascade unit was still committed at the building collapse, so Battalion Chief Jeff Gore special-called a mutual aid cascade to the fire scene. At 5 p.m. Rescue 22 was dispatched and Lawrence Road firefighters filled about a dozen SCBA bottles for Trenton firefighters. Rescue 22 returned to Station 22 at 6 p.m.
July 8, 1998
At 12:42 p.m. on Wednesday, July 8, 1998, Rescue 22 was dispatched for a cascade assignment on Box 51-01 to a structure fire at 231 South Main Street in Pennington Borough. Rescue 22 signed on radio at 12:44 p.m. and arrived on scene at 12:51 p.m. The fire, which was caused by careless smoking, was quickly contained to one bedroom by Pennington firefighters. While Firefighters Ryan Quill and Gary Wasko filled a handful of SCBA bottles, the rest of Rescue 22’s crew was utilized as a FAST Team. Lawrence Road firefighters were back in Station 22 by 1:36 p.m.
July 8, 1998
Half an hour after the mutual aid assignment to Pennington ended, Station 22 personnel were again called to service. At 2:05 p.m. on Wednesday, July 8, 1998, the Lawrenceville and Lawrence Road fire companies were dispatched to a possible structure fire at 181 Spring Beauty Drive. Engine 22-3 signed on radio at 2:05 p.m., followed by Engine 22-1 at 2:07 p.m., Telesquirt 23 at 2:07 p.m., Engine 23-3 at 2:13 p.m. and Ladder Tower 23 at 2:15 p.m. Engine 22-3 was the first apparatus to reach the scene at 2:12 p.m. At that time, Lt. Chris Longo reported he had heavy smoke showing from a large one-story single-family home with attached garage.
With Firefighter Ryan Quill manning the pump of Engine 22-3, Longo and Firefighters Marty Burch and Steve Amiott advanced a 1.75-inch handline into the dwelling. They encountered zero visibility and heavy heat and worked their way to the rear bedroom on Side B where they found heavy fire breaking through the walls. A crew from Station 23 then arrived with a second handline. While firefighters were working in the room, the floor partially collapsed and Burch fell through a hole into the basement as far as his waist level. At that time, the basement was heavily involved with fire so that flames immediately began to lick at Burch’s lower body. Longo and Amiott, with help from Lawrenceville Firefighter Bill Grey, quickly pulled Burch from the hole.
With conditions in the room rapidly deteriorating. Lt. Longo ordered all personnel to evacuate. Amiott jumped through a window to the exterior. Longo and Burch and Station 23’s crew then backed out through the interior of the house. Burch was then escorted to the EMS command post, where he was checked by Squad 129 personnel. After regrouping on the exterior, Engine 22-3’s crew re-entered the building and continued to attack the flames. Engine 22-1, operated by Firefighter Gary Wasko, meanwhile arrived on scene at 2:14 p.m., hooked up to a hydrant and back-stretched one section of 4-inch hose to supply Engine 22-3. After the supply line was established, Engine 22-1’s crew reported to the front of the building.
Capt. James Pidcock and Firefighters Chris Pangaldi and Michael Ratcliffe entered the house. Visibility was still zero at that time. They initiated a primary search for victims, as well as a missing dog. No victims were found. After locating the stairs to the basement, Capt. Pidcock called for a handline to be stretched to the Side D doorway. Lawrence police Patrolman Dave Burns then kicked in the Side D door, which had been locked. Pidcock, Pangaldi and Ratcliffe and some Station 23 members then stretched the handline down into the basement and began to search for the basement’s bilco doors (located on Side C). After the bilco doors were opened, another handline was stretched to Side C. That line was utilized to extinguish flames in the basement ceiling.
Rescue 22, which was special-called to the scene at 2:12 p.m., arrived at 2:24 p.m. Rescue 22’s crews, consisting of Firefighters Jason Pidcock, Tim Kasony Jr. and Charles Commini, then assisted in pulling the ceiling in the basement. Damage to the house was extensive. The basement, where the fire was started by an electrical problem in a breaker box, was gutted near the Side B/C corner. The basement ceiling was burned through in several places. The floor in the rear bedroom on Side B was partially collapsed with pieces of furniture (a bed and dresser) hanging half into the basement. This was where Burch nearly fell into the basement. The floor in the middle bedroom on Side B was also partially collapsed with another bed hanging halfway into the cellar.
After the bulk of the fire was knocked down, Lt. Jeff Sawasky checked the attic for extension. Station 22 personnel assisted in overhaul operations. The pet dog was eventually found dead in the house. Lawrence Road firefighters cleared the scene at 4:13 p.m. and spent about 90 minutes in the firehouse putting the apparatus back in service. During the incident, Engine 32-1 covered Station 22.
August 31, 1998
On Monday, August 31, 1998, Lawrence Road firefighters were called to the scene of a fatal motor vehicle accident. This report appeared on the New Jersey Firefighters Online computer website: “A teenager driving an ice-cream truck died when he lost control of the vehicle and it hit a utility pole on Monday, August 31, 1998. The accident occurred on the access road leading from the Brunswick Circle to Princeton Avenue. The 19-year-old Hamilton resident was south on Princeton Avenue when for some reason he crossed a median for the access road and struck the utility pole. The utility pole was sheered in half and an overhead conduit containing phone lines fell and became entangled with the truck's cab. The truck, which suffered extensive front-end damage, came to rest near the curb of the access road. The Lawrence First Aid Squad, Slackwood Fire Co., Lawrence Road Fire Co., and Mercer County paramedics were dispatched to the scene at 12:14 p.m. While en route, rescuers were advised that wires were down on the truck and the driver, who appeared unconscious and unresponsive, might be trapped. At first, rescuers were unable to approach the vehicle because they were uncertain if the fallen phone lines were in contact with any of the power lines on the damaged utility pole. Once rescuers determined the phone wires were not energized with electricity, they entered the vehicle and tried to revive the driver. A medical helicopter was requested at 12:21 p.m. but the chopper was cancelled after the teenager was pronounced dead by the paramedics at 12:30 p.m.
October 1, 1998
At 1:54 p.m. on Thursday, October 1, 1998, Engine 22-3 was special-called to the scene of a brush fire on Lawrence Station Road in the area of Black Road. The fire involved an area of weeds and brush approximately 500-by-500 feet in size. Engine 22-3's crew used the booster line off Brush 23, as well as Indian tanks and brooms, to fight the fire. In addition to Engine 22-3 and Brush 23, apparatus on the scene included Telesquirt 23, Engine 23-2, Engine 23-3, Engine 21, Engine 12 and Brush 12. Engine 22-3 returned to Station 22 by 3:27 p.m.
October 12, 1998
Engine 22, a 1998 KME 2,000 gpm pumper costing $329,850, responded to its first run on Monday, October 12, 1998, when Station 22 was dispatched at 8:10 a.m. to an alarm at the Chapin School on Princeton Pike. (On Saturday, October 17, 1998, the Lawrence Road Fire Co. held a dedication and housing ceremony at the firehouse for the brand-new Engine 22.)
November 5, 1998
Thursday, November 5, 1998, was a busy day for Lawrence Road Fire Co. members who helped fight two fires in Hopewell Township. Box 52-40 was transmitted at 5:27 a.m. on for a fire involving a two-story storage barn and greenhouse facility at Sansone's Farm Market on Route 518 (Lambertville-Hopewell Road). At 5:30 a.m. Rescue 22 was dispatched for cascade and manpower duties. Rescue 22 responded with Capt. James Pidcock and Firefighters Charles Commini, Gary Wasko, Michael Byrd, Sonny Kitchen, Larry Forker and Michael Ratcliffe.
When Rescue 22 arrived on scene, elevated master streams were flowing from Ladder 51 and Telesquirt 53 and two 1.75-inch handlines and one 2.5-inch handline were in service. The fire building had already collapsed and Lawrence Road firefighters assisted in extinguishing hot spots and moving debris. All firefighters were ordered to wear SCBA due to the presence of fertilizers inside the fire building. Commini and Forker operated the cascade system on Rescue 22 to fill SCBA bottles. Spill pads from Rescue 22 were used to dike runoff from the fire.
Additional alarms were sounded for tankers and at least 40,500 gallons of water were flowed on the blaze, which was declared under control at 6:05 a.m. At 7:31 a.m. Trenton's hazardous materials team was called to the scene to assist.
While Station 22 personnel stood by on the scene, another structure fire was reported at 8:42 a.m. on Box 52-50. Rescue 22's crew quickly took up from the scene of the Sansone blaze and responded to the job at 51 Feather Bed Lane. Deputy 52 (ex-Lawrence Road member Joseph Toth II) piloted Rescue 22. The fire building, a 12-by-12 foot shed located several hundred feet from the roadway down a private driveway, was in a state of collapse when firefighters arrived on the scene. Station 22 personnel assisted in wetting down the fire and overhauling the rubble. Rescue 22 finally returned to Station 22 at 9:30 a.m.
December 29, 1998
At 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 29, 1998, Engine 22 responded to cover Station 32 during a fire involving two houses on Ardsley Avenue. At 9:43 p.m. Engine 22 was special-called to the scene by Chief 31. Engine 22’s crew (Capt. Wayne Hannon and Firefighters Charles Commini, Ryan Quill, Michael Byrd, Chris Pangaldi, Gary Wasko, and Tim Kasony Jr.) initially stood by as a FAST Team but was then put to work to assist in fire suppression and overhaul operations in both the original fire building and the Side D exposure. Engine 22 did not return to Station 22 until 1:10 a.m.