January 1, 1999
On Friday, January 1, 1999, John Fleming became the first black fire chief in Mercer County history when he was sworn in as the chief officer of the Lawrence Road Fire Co. by Mayor Pat Colavita during a ceremony held at the Lawrence Township municipal building. A large group of Lawrence Road volunteers, including the out-going chief, Patrick Kent, attended the ceremony to applaud their new leader.
On Thursday, January 7, 1999, the Trenton Times published an article about Fleming’s accomplishment. The article, written by Times staff writer Ryan Davis, read:
“For John Fleming it wasn’t about black or white. He only saw red trucks. As a kid, the new chief of Lawrence Road Fire Co. walked past the fire station every day on the way to school. He always looked at the trucks. One day in 1978, the 15-year-old decided to pick up an application. Technically, he had to be 16 to join the company, but Fleming didn’t give his age, and no one noticed. Twenty-one years later, on Jan. 1, Fleming, now 36, became the first black to be named chief of a fire company in Mercer County. He is one of fewer than 25 black volunteer fire chiefs in the nation, according to the International Association of Fire Chiefs in Fairfax, Va. “It’s special and it should be celebrated,” said Gary Briese, president of the IAFC. People close to Fleming aren’t celebrating. They were sure this was coming. Fleming was a deputy chief for six years and an assistant chief for three years before that.*
“Upon hearing that Fleming, who is also a full-time Trenton firefighter assigned to Engine 7, is Mercer’s first black volunteer chief, his co-workers generally responded, “Yeah, I guess he is.” If someone else had become the first black chief, Fleming might have celebrated. But, he said, “It’s not a big deal. It’s just me.” Minority interest in firefighting has grown in recent years, according to the IAFC, but the volunteer growth has lagged. Volunteer companies fight the stigma of being traditionally white social clubs. Fleming prides himself on the togetherness of his 35- to 40-person company, the only one in Lawrence Township with black members. Volunteers attend football games, baseball games and other events together. Lawrence Road provides a more relaxed atmosphere than the Trenton department, where he is a 10-year veteran. “If I leave the firehouse in Trenton at 7 a.m., I’m here at 7:15 a.m. having coffee,” Fleming said.
“Ask anyone close to Fleming about his most striking characteristic and they will give several different answers – his leadership, his listening ability. No one will mention his race. Some might mention his right hand, which is darker than the rest of his skin because of burns. It looks like he wears a permanent glove. In 1988, Fleming was trying to leave a house fire when winds shifted and the building went up in flames, badly burning his hand. “He looks at his hand every once in a while,” said Capt. Henry Gliottone of the Trenton Fire Department. “Every time I go to a fire,” Fleming said, “I’m thinking about it.” The incident made Fleming want to learn more about fire science.
“On breaks between 40-hour paid weeks in Trenton and 30-hour volunteer weeks in the suburbs, Fleming reads books about firefighting and leadership. He said he has read 20 books in the past two months. Fleming separates his two jobs. At one he has a desk and an office; at the other he finds himself at the bottom of the ladder. But he carries his experiences between the two jobs. Experience is one of his biggest assets, according to Lawrence Road President Jim Yates, who was a deputy chief when Fleming started. Fleming’s plans for his first year include more rescue training and assembling a new red truck. “We’re proud about the fact that John’s chief,” said Yates, who used to stand outside the station with a Dalmatian when Fleming was walking to school, “not because he’s black, but because he’s John.”
(* NOTE: Fleming was actually a deputy chief for six years, an assistant chief for five years and battalion chief for one year.)
January 1, 1999
It was not long before Station 22 firefighters were called to duty in the new year. At 6:02 p.m. on Friday, January 1, 1999, Lawrence Control dispatched the Lawrenceville and Lawrence Road fire companies on Box 23-10 for a reported structure fire at 5 Laurelwood Drive. At the time the box was transmitted, several Lawrence Road volunteers were in the firehouse attending the company’s annual New Year’s Day luncheon. Engine 22 and Rescue 22 both signed on radio at 6:03 p.m., followed by Engine 24 (from Lawrenceville’s substation in Lawrence Square Village) at 6:05 p.m.
At 6:07 p.m. Lawrenceville Deputy Chief Don Huber arrived on location and reported smoke showing from the second floor on Side A of the two-story, single-family dwelling. Engine 22, driven by Ff. Jeff Sawasky, also arrived at 6:07 p.m. and took up position at the front of the fire building. Firefighters Steve Amiott, Marty Burch and Tim Kasony Jr., under the direction of Assistant Chief James Pidcock, stretched a 1.75-inch handline to attack the fire located in the second-floor front bedroom.
Rescue 22, driven by Ff. Charles Commini, arrived seconds later. Rescue 22 backed down and laid 400 feet of 4-inch supply hose to the hydrant at the corner of Laurelwood Drive and Wood Lane Road. Telesquirt 23 and Engine 23-3 responded at 6:10 p.m. and arrived at 6:11 p.m. and 6:12 p.m., respectively. Engine 24 arrived at 6:15 p.m.
As the hoseteam reached the top of the stairs and opened the bedroom door to attack the fire, Capt. Wayne Hannon, Ff. Michael Byrd and Junior Ff. Shaun Dlabik took out the front windows for ventilation. Their coordinated efforts resulted in the bulk of the fire being knocked down by 6:13 p.m. Meanwhile, at the front of the dwelling Rescue Capt. Chris Longo and Ffs. James Yates, Chris Pangaldi, Michael Ratcliffe, and Rob Kusek raised a 35-foot ladder to check for any spread of fire along the roof line.
Ladder Tower 23 signed on radio at 6:15 p.m. and arrived two minutes later. The bedroom and its contents were gutted but there was no extension of fire to other rooms or into the attic. Lawrence Road Ff. Tim Kasony Jr. rescued a cat from a room next to the bedroom where the fire originated. Lawrenceville Chief Bob Brackett declared the fire completely out at 6:39 p.m. Candles left burning atop a dresser were blamed for starting the fire. Lawrence Road firefighters were back in quarters by 7:24 p.m.
January 18, 1999
At 3:39 a.m. on Monday, January 18, 1999, Lawrence Road Fire Co. was dispatched on Box 22-10 by Lawrence Township police to a structure fire at 124 Oaklyn Terrace. Mercer County Central Communications Center automatically dispatched Slackwood Fire Co. to assist.
Rescue 22 left the firehouse at 3:41 a.m. with a crew of seven firefighters. Rescue 22 arrived on the scene two minutes later at 3:43 a.m. and found heavy smoke issuing from the second floor of the dwelling. Chief John Fleming arrived at 3:44 a.m. and assumed fireground command. He reported that flames were visible through a second-floor window on Side A.
Engine 22 arrived on the scene at 3:44 a.m., followed one minute later by Engine 22-1. Thus, Lawrence Road had all three of its engines and about 25 volunteer firefighters on scene within six minutes of being dispatched. Slackwood responded with more than a dozen firefighters on Snorkel 21 and Engine 21, which arrived at 3:47 a.m. and 3:49 a.m., respectively.
As soon as they arrived, firefighters were advised by police officers that all four residents of 124 Oaklyn Terrace had safely escaped the burning house. Rescue 22’s crew stretched a 1.75-inch handline into the dwelling and made their way up the stairs to the second floor where they encountered heavy smoke and moderate heat. Meanwhile, Engine 22’s crew laid 400 feet of 5-inch hose to supply water from a hydrant at the corner of Oaklyn Terrace and Birchwood Knoll. Additional Lawrence Road and Slackwood personnel ventilated the structure.
As a result of the quick response and teamwork of the Lawrence Road and Slackwood fire companies, the blaze was contained to the second-floor bedroom where it started. Although the bedroom was gutted, the remainder of the house sustained only smoke and water damage. Fleming declared the fire under control at 3:59 a.m. Lawrence Road crews cleared the scene by 5:40 a.m.
An investigation by Mercer County Fire Marshal George Lenhardt and township fire inspectors determined that a malfunctioning electrical space heater started the fire. Lawrence Road Fire Co. provided the residents of 124 Oaklyn Terrace with a new smoke detector as none of their old smoke detectors had worked. An ambulance crew from the Lawrence First Aid Squad stood by at the scene but no injuries were reported. Pennington Road Engine 32-1 and West Trenton Ladder Tower 33 stood by at Station 22, while Telesquirt 23 stood by at Station 21 during the incident.
March 8, 1999
At 10:41 a.m. on Monday, March 8, 1999, the Lawrence Road Fire Co., along with Squad 129 and Rescue 129, was dispatched to a motor vehicle accident with reported entrapment at Route 206 and Eggerts Crossing Road. Rescue 22 arrived to find that a station wagon had collided with a flatbed tractor-trailer that was carrying a military truck for delivery to the National Guard armory on Eggerts Crossing Road. The front end of the station wagon came to rest partially under the tractor-trailer, but the female driver of the station wagon was not trapped. Rescue 22’s crew assisted Squad 129 personnel in packaging the patient and then spread some absorbent material on the roadway to contain fluids leaking from the wrecked station wagon.
March 12, 1999
During a memorial ceremony held at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 12, 1999, at the Lawrence Township Post 414 of the American Legion, Post President James Grubb presented an award of appreciation to Lawrence Road Fire Co. The award was accepted by President James Yates. Several other fire company members attended the service.
March 15, 1999
On Monday, March 15, 1999, a pickup truck slid off the snow-covered road and crashed into a utility pole on Carter Road near Tall Timbers Drive. The driver was pinned in his seat by the crumpled dashboard. At 2:25 p.m. Lawrence Control dispatched Squad 129, Rescue 129, Rescue 22 and Station 23. Rescue 22 and Rescue 129 both signed on radio at 2:27 p.m. and Engine 23 responded at 2:28 p.m. Rescue 22 and Engine 23 arrived on location at 2:33 p.m., while Rescue 129 arrived at 2:37 p.m.
Rescue 22’s crew deployed their Holmatro tools on the driver’s side of the vehicle and Rescue 129’s crew deployed their Hurst tools on the passenger’s side. Engine 23’s crew stretched a 1.75-inch handline from Rescue 22. Rescue 22’s crew removed the driver’s side door. By working together, the two rescue crews then cut the A and B posts and removed the roof. The driver was extricated at 2:54 p.m. The injured man was then taken to the nearby Squibb property, where a medivac landing zone was set up by Telesquirt 23. The 47-year-old Monmouth County man was then flown to the Capital Health System at Fuld hospital in Trenton, where he was admitted to the intensive care ward in stable condition. Rescue 22 was back in quarters at 3:19 p.m.
March 30-31, 1999
A pair of brush fires in as many days kept Lawrence Road firefighters busy toward the end of March 1999. At 1:20 p.m. on Tuesday, March 30, 1999, the Lawrenceville Fire Co. was dispatched to a brush fire behind the security office at Rider University. When Chief 23 arrived, he realized the fire was on the opposite side of Five Mile Run in District 2. At 1:27 p.m., Station 22 was dispatched by Mercer County Central Communications Center. At 1:31 p.m. Engine 22-1 signed on radio and responded to Rider and its crew, together with the crew from Telesquirt 23, walked about 500 feet into the woods and used Indian tanks to attack the burning undergrowth.
Rescue 22, which signed on radio at 1:33 p.m., meanwhile responded to Central Park on Eggerts Crossing Road and its crew made its way through the woods with Brush 23 to attack the fire from the opposite side. Chainsaws were used to cut apart a few trees that were burning internally. Station 22 firefighters were back in quarters by 2:22 p.m. During the incident, an engine from Slackwood Fire Co. stood by at Station 22, while an engine from Pennington Road Fire Co. covered Station 23.
The following morning, Wednesday, March 31, 1999, at 11:37 a.m. Station 22 personnel were dispatched to a fire in the woods between Lawrence Middle School and Lawrence High School. Engine 22-1 responded at 11:40 a.m. and arrived to find heavy smoke in the area. Engine 22-1 accessed the scene via a path at the dead end of Fieldboro Drive from Gainsboro Road. A pair of booster lines were stretched to attack the flames, which involved several trees and undergrowth. Shovels, a chainsaw and a water extinguisher were also utilized. Ultimately, the fire was contained to an area approximately 100-by-150 feet in size. A pack of burned matches was found nearby but the cause of the fire was undetermined. Engine 22-1 was back in service at Station 22 by 1:05 p.m.
April 7, 1999
A fire heavily damaged the roof and part of the interior of the First Union Bank in the Lawrence Shopping Center on Wednesday, April 7, 1999.
It was 1:56 p.m. when Lawrence Control dispatched Station 21 and Station 22 to the blaze in the shopping center on Brunswick Pike. At the time the assignment was sent out, several Lawrence Road members were in the firehouse following the funeral for Francis Quill, father of Past Chief Patrick Quill. The first firefighter to arrive was Slackwood Assistant Chief Ron Dziminski at 1:58 p.m. He reported that heavy smoke was visible from the roof area of the one-story structure. At that time, bank employees were outside, reportedly after having locked all the money up inside the vault before fleeing.
Engine 21-1, which arrived at 1:59 p.m., took a position along Side A and its crew stretched a 1.75-inch handline into the bank’s interior. Engine 22 arrived at 2 p.m. and took a position on the Side A/B corner and its crew threw a ground ladder and hauled a 1.75-inch handline up to the roof. Rescue 22 also arrived at 2 p.m. and its manpower was deployed to assist the other two engine crews.
At 2:01 p.m. Engine 22-1 arrived and laid 500 feet of 5-inch supply line through the parking lot to a hydrant located near the Manhattan Bagel shop. Snorkel 21 arrived at 2:04 p.m. and Engine 21 arrived at 2:05 p.m. and their manpower utilized as support. Firefighters learned that men from a security system company accidentally started the fire with an acetylene torch they were using to work on a night deposit box located on the front wall of the bank. Sparks from the torch apparently ignited insulation in the wall around the deposit box.
Flames extended into the adjacent utility room, where the fire spread to the building’s natural gas meter. Fueled by the gas, flames quickly engulfed the utility room and burned into the roof. As the interior crew made its attack on the fire in the utility room, Station 22 firefighters on the roof used handtools and a chainsaw to remove an access hatch and cut open the surrounding area. The fire was burning along the insulation between the top layer of tar and the corrugated metal roof, but firefighters were able to open up the area ahead of the flames and halt the fire’s spread.
The situation was under control in approximately 20 minutes. Firefighting operations were directed by Slackwood Chief Ken Johnson. The utility room was gutted and the roof sustained significant damage. The bank’s restrooms and several offices also sustained smoke and water damage. During the incident an engine from Lawrenceville Fire Co. covered Station 21, and an engine from the Pennington Road Fire Co. stood by at Station 22. An ambulance from Lawrence First Aid Squad stood by on scene but no injuries were reported.
April 11, 1999
At 9:15 p.m. on Sunday, April 11, 1999, Station 22 volunteers were dispatched to a special assignment in West Windsor Township after West Windsor police officers requested Lawrence Road’s thermal imaging camera to help them search through the woods for a man who had allegedly assaulted his mother and was in a suicidal state of mind. Firefighters Charles Commini and Gary Wasko responded with the camera in Utility 22 and assisted police in their search. The man was later found unharmed hiding near his home. Utility 22 was back in quarters by 10:20 p.m.
April 20, 1999
At 3 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20, 1999, members of the Lawrence Road Fire Co. were dispatched to a car fire in the parking lot of Lawrence Middle School. Rescue 22 arrived to find the engine compartment of the vehicle heavily involved. Rescue 22’s crew went in service with a 1.75-inch handline and quickly knocked down the fire.
April 21, 1999
At 7:16 p.m. on Wednesday, April 21, 1999, the Slackwood and Lawrence Road fire companies were sent to the Burlington Coat Factory store in the Lawrence Shopping Center after an employee there smelled a burning odor and spotted smoke coming from a utility closet. The fire, which investigators determined was caused by spontaneous combustion of cleaning chemicals that had been sprayed on a dust mop, was fueled by toilet paper and other items stored in the closet. But the flames triggered a nearby sprinkler head and the fire was contained to the area of the utility closet. Slackwood firefighters then arrived and finished extinguishing the blaze with a 1.75-inch handline. Lawrence Road firefighters assisted in ventilating the store and removing water dumped by the sprinklers.
April 22, 1999
A motorist narrowly escaped death when the car he was driving was crushed between a tractor-trailer and the concrete median on Route 1 on the morning of Thursday, April 22, 1999. The accident occurred about 11:30 a.m. in the northbound side of Route 1 near the Mrs. G’s appliance store just south of Bakers Basin Road when the tractor-trailer changed lanes and pushed the car up against the median. Lawrence Control, after receiving several 911 calls reporting the driver of the car was trapped, dispatched Station 21 and Rescue 22 at 11:32 a.m. Rescue 22 approached the scene from the southbound side of Route 1, while Slackwood’s apparatus came in from the northbound side. Firefighters arrived to find the front of the car pinned partially under the tractor-trailer and the rear-end sticking into the air against the median. The passenger’s side of the car was crushed inward but, fortunately, the driver had been traveling alone. Amazingly, the car’s driver was only slightly injured. Because there was very little damage to the driver’s side, EMS personnel were able to easily open the driver’s door and slide the 20-year-old man out on a backboard. Lawrence Road Rescue Capt./EMT Chris Longo and Ff./Paramedic Michael Peterson assisted in removing the man. Rescue 22 remained on the scene while a large wrecker dragged the tractor-trailer away from the car so that the car could be pulled off the concrete median. Rescue 22 finally returned to Station 22 at 1:18 p.m.
May 1, 1999
In the middle of April 1999, James Pidcock resigned his position as Assistant Chief of the Lawrence Road Fire Co. because he was moving to Colorado. In the wake of his resignation, there were several changes made to the list of fire line officers. The updated roster, which became effective May 1, 1999, read as follows: Chief John Fleming; Deputy Chief Richard Farletta; Assistant Chief Wayne Hannon; Rescue Captain Chris Longo; Captain 22 Patrick Kent;
Captain 22-1 James Moran; Captain 22-2 Marty Burch; Lieutenant 22 Gary Wasko; Lieutenant 22-1 Steve Amiott; Fire Police Captain Robert Hazen.
May 1, 1999
On the night of May 1, 1999, exactly 85 years to the day that Stephen Ziegler Sr. and others held a meeting in Eldridge Park school house to organize the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association, the members of the Lawrence Road Fire Co., their families and their friends gathered to celebrate the fire company’s 85th anniversary.A large blue banner was hung from the front of the firehouse to proclaim the fire company’s anniversary to the public, while embossed invitations for the anniversary ball were sent to members and selected honored guests. As guests arrived for the 5:30 p.m. cocktail hour they were greeted by a bagpiper and found Rescue 22 and Engine 22-1 positioned outside the entrance to the fire company’s banquet hall. Once inside, they found that the hall had been turned into a reception area where hors d’oeuvres were passed out and drinks were served at the bar.
A display of fire company history that included minute books, photographs, newspaper clippings and old helmets lined one wall in the banquet hall. An antique hose cart, reminiscent of the hand-drawn chemical engine that was Lawrence Road’s first piece of firefighting apparatus, also stood in the hall. (The hose cart was obtained by Ff. Joe Dlabik Sr. as a donation from the Lawrenceville Prep School.) Decorations and special lights set up by Makrancy’s Landscaping turned the engine room into a colorful ballroom. The tables were arranged around the walls, with Engine 22 parked along the front bay doors as a backdrop and the entertainers (the Joe Zook Blues Deluxe band and Black Tie DJ) positioned at the back. A second bar was set up near the engine room door. White balustrades outlined the dance floor in the center of the engine room. The members’ room in the upstairs of the firehouse was turned into a smoking lounge with yet another bar. The dinner, provided by Mastoris Catering, featured a menu that included salad, pencil points with meat sauce, prime rib and chicken marsala, oven-roasted potatoes, and green beans almondine.
Past Trenton Fire Chief Dennis M. Keenan served as the master of ceremonies. Several former fire company officers who were in attendance were presented plaques of recognition during the evening. Past presidents Don Cermele and Joseph Simonelli and past chiefs Ted Clemen Jr., Patrick Quill, James Yates, and Patrick Kent were all honored. A plaque was presented to a representative of Educational Testing Service in recognition of the company’s financial support to the fire company over the years. Plaques were also presented to representatives of Slackwood and Lawrenceville fire companies and Lawrence First Aid Squad for their past and continuing support. Lawrence Township Mayor Pat Colavita and Deputy Mayor Greg Puliti presented a resolution honoring the fire company on its 85th anniversary, and Congressman Rush Holt presented to Chief John Fleming a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
During a candlelight ceremony, a dogwood tree was blessed and dedicated to the deceased members of the Lawrence Road Fire Co. (The tree was later planted on the lawn in front of the firehouse.) President James Yates also rededicated the fire company to its mission of serving the citizens of Lawrence Township by unveiling a plaque reading: “On May 1, 1914, a group of intrepid community members met at Eldridge Park Elementary School for the purpose of forming a volunteer fire company. From this meeting came Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association, with the motto: “Life Value First Always.” In recognition of our 85 years of service to the residents of Fire District #2, as well as the Township of Lawrence, the members of Lawrence Road Fire Company (formerly Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association, organized May 1, 1914), past, present and future, pledge their lasting commitment of service, in the grandest tradition of our motto ‘Life Value First Always.’ Dedicated May 1, 1999.”
Finally, before the dancing began, a cake surrounded by fireworks sparklers was unveiled and everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to the Lawrence Road Fire Co. Mercer County Executive Robert Prunetti and Lawrence Township Councilman Rick Miller, son of long-time Lawrence Road treasurer Robert Miller, were among the many honored guests in the crowd.
Everyone attending the ball received a commemorative wine glass, a program of events, a card with the text of the rededication plaque, a postcard photograph of the original firehouse (circa 1915), and a 310-page book on the history of the fire company. The book, written by Ff. Michael Ratcliffe, was printed as a donation by ETS. During the ball, the Slackwood and Lawrenceville fire companies were on alert to respond to any alarms in Lawrence Road’s district. No alarms were sounded and the anniversary ball came to a successful conclusion in the early-morning hours. The Trenton Times published an article about Lawrence Road’s 85th anniversary on Sunday, May 2, 1999, and the Trentonian printed a photo and brief story about the anniversary ball on Tuesday, May 4, 1999.
May 3, 1999
During the morning rush-hour on Monday, May 3, 1999, a five-vehicle accident occurred on Interstate 95 between Princeton Pike and Route 206. The accident began shortly before 8:20 a.m. in the northbound side of the highway when a woman trying to change lanes lost control of her Nissan and collided with a Chevy Blazer. An Oldsmobile, traveling close behind the first two vehicles, was also struck and sent out of control across the median into the southbound side of the highway.
The out-of-control Oldsmobile collided almost head-on with a van and then crashed into some small trees and shrubs along the southbound shoulder of the highway. Meanwhile, the van collided with a Cadillac, overturned and came to rest on its roof along the southbound shoulder several dozen feet away from the Oldsmobile. At 8:23 a.m., Lawrence Control dispatched Station 23 and Squad 129. Rescue 129 was dispatched several minutes later by Mercer County Central Communications Center after state police confirmed there was entrapment.
Engine 23 responded at 8:24 a.m. and arrived on scene at 8:29 a.m. to find that the driver of the overturned van had already crawled out of his vehicle, but that the driver and passenger of the Oldsmobile were still trapped. Rescue 129 signed on radio at 8:31 a.m. A short time later some type of mechanical failure occurred that rendered Engine 23’s Hurst tool inoperative. At 8:33 a.m., Lawrenceville Capt. Butch Bentley asked Mercer County Central to dispatch Rescue 22.
Rescue 22, with a crew of six rescue-trained firefighters, signed on radio at 8:34 a.m. Rescue 129 and Chief 22 both arrived on scene at 8:37 a.m., followed two minutes later by Rescue 22. Rescue 22’s crew deployed their Holmatro tools and cut one A post, two B posts and two C posts on the Oldsmobile. The car’s roof was removed and crews from Rescue 129 and Engine 23 performed a dash displacement. Both patients were extricated from the Oldsmobile by 8:58 a.m. and transported by ambulances to the trauma unit at the Capital Health System at Fuld hospital in Trenton. Rescue 22’s crew then assisted in containing fuel spilled onto the roadway from the overturned van. Rescue 22 returned to Station 22 at 10:08 a.m.
May 8, 1999
At 9:22 p.m. on Saturday, May 8, 1999, dispatchers at the Mercer County Central Communications Center transmitted Box 51-01 for a working structure fire at 409 Reading Street in Pennington Borough. Apparently, the residents had gone out about an hour earlier and had left a pop-tart cooking in a toaster in the kitchen on the first-floor of the large three-story home. The pastry became jammed in the toaster and eventually sparked a fire. The blaze spread through much of the balloon-frame dwelling before it was spotted by neighbors.
Rescue 22 was among the companies dispatched on the first alarm at 9:22 p.m. Pennington Chief Jason Belmont arrived on location at 9:27 p.m. and reported he had heavy smoke pushing out from all floors and heavy fire showing from the rear and Side D of the structure. Propane gas spewing out from two or three small tanks stored next to a barbecue grill on the back porch helped fuel the flames. Rescue 22, which signed on radio at 9:26 p.m., was the third unit to arrive on location at 9:35 p.m. Rescue 22 laid a backup supply line and took up a position near the front of the fire building directly behind Ladder Tower 51 and Rescue 51. Rescue 22’s crew then took out a first-floor window for ventilation.
Ff. Michael Byrd then used a Denver tool to force entry through a side door leading to the kitchen. While Rescue Capt. Chris Longo, Ff. Chris Pangaldi and Slackwood Ff. Michael Burzachiello (who rode with Rescue 22) stretched a 1.75-inch handline to attack the flames in the kitchen, Byrd and Ff. Larry Forker began a primary search. As Rescue 22’s crew worked its way to the next floor, they discovered that a section of floor in the hallway on the second floor had been burned away in the fire. Meanwhile, Engine 22 was dispatched at 9:28 p.m. to stand by at Station 51. A miscommunication resulted in Engine 22 responding to Station 52. But at 9:56 p.m., Engine 22 was redirected to the scene for extra manpower.
Engine 22 arrived at 10:03 p.m. and its crew was put to work in stretching another 1.75-inch handline up to the third floor. As Ffs. Walter Hlewicki and Michael Ratcliffe were hitting the fire from the top of the stairs, flames burned through a large section of the roof and shot 20 feet into the air. At that point, evacuations tones were sounded and all firefighters were ordered to leave the building. Ladder Tower 51 then opened its master stream on the fire on the third floor. Interior operations resumed once the bulk of the fire was darkened down.
The fire was finally declared under control at 10:54 p.m. Firefighters then spent several hours overhauling and assisting investigators from the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office and Mercer County Fire Marshal’s Office. Apparatus on the fireground, in order of arrival, included: Rescue 51, Ladder Tower 51, Rescue 22, Engine 52, Telesquirt 53, Telesquirt 23, Engine 51, Engine 22, Engine 33-2, and Special Services 32.
Both the Pennington Fire Co. Ladies Auxiliary and the Signal 22 canteen were on the scene to provide hot coffee, cold soda and other refreshments to weary firefighters. There were no firefighter or civilian injuries, but a pet cat was killed. The cat’s carcass was found inside a front room on the second floor. Engine 22 returned to quarters by 12:35 a.m. but Rescue 22, which also utilized its light tower and cascade system, was not back in service at Station 22 until 1:39 a.m.
May 30, 1999
At 4:30 p.m. on the humid afternoon of Sunday, May 30, 1999, the Lawrenceville and Lawrence Road fire companies were dispatched to a smoke condition at 34 Morton Court in the Woodmont condominium development. Lawrenceville firefighters arrived at 4:33 p.m. to find smoke issuing from the condominium and fire inside the utility/furnace room. At 4:35 p.m. Lawrenceville Chief Bob Brackett called the second alarm and the Slackwood Fire Co. and Special Services 14 from the Enterprise Fire Co. were immediately dispatched. Engine 23 arrived on location at 4:35 p.m. and its crew went in service with a 1.75-inch handline. Engine 22 arrived moments later and its crew began a primary search of the structure. Rescue 22 arrived at 4:36 p.m. and its crew laid a supply line. Engine 22-1 arrived at 4:39 p.m. with additional manpower. The fire, which was contained to the utility room, was declared under control at 4:40 p.m. Lawrence Road firefighters assisted with overhaul operations before returning to Station 22 by 5:20 p.m. Lawrence First Aid Squad stood by on the scene but there were no injuries reported.
June 2, 1999
At 5:13 p.m. on Wednesday, June 2, 1999, Ewing Township firefighters were dispatched to a working fire inside the three-story dwelling at 329 Westmoreland Drive. The home belonged to a Ewing Township firefighter. Among the Ewing Township apparatus that responded to the scene, in order of arrival, were: Engine 31-1, Telesquirt 32, Engine 33-2, Engine 32-1, Ladder Tower 31, Squirt 31, Engine 33-3, Rescue 33, and Engine 31-2.
At 5:21 p.m. Mercer County Central Communications Center dispatched Engine 21 to cover Station 31 and Engine 22 to cover Station 32. At 5:29 p.m. Ladder Tower 51 and Engine 0 (Bucks County) were sent to Station 33. With heavy fire still raging in the third floor and additional manpower needed, Prospect Heights Chief Bill Erney ordered that the second alarm be transmitted. At 5:40 p.m. Snorkel 21 was dispatched to the fireground, followed a minute later by Engine 14-2. At 5:43 p.m., Engine 21 and Engine 22 were ordered to respond to the scene from their cover stations.
Engine 22 arrived at 5:45 p.m. and, with fire venting through the roof of the dwelling, its crew advanced a handline up the stairs to attack the flames on the top floor. After the second alarm was struck Engine 14-1 was sent to Station 31 and Engine 12 was sent to Station 32. At 5:55 p.m., Ladder Tower 23 was relocated to stand by at Lawrence Road’s firehouse.
The blaze was finally declared under control at 6:09 p.m. But companies continued to work overhauling the fire for several hours. The Signal 22 canteen responded to provide firefighters with refreshments. The afternoon’s high humidity took a toll on firefighters. Two men were treated on scene for heat-related injuries and one Prospect Heights firefighter was taken to Capital Health System at Mercer hospital for treatment. Engine 22 did not return to Station 22 until 8:17 p.m.
(Ironically, the blaze in Ewing was reported while firefighters in the northern end of the county were busy battling a blaze in a mansion on Arreton Road in Princeton Township. That fire, reported about 4 p.m., went to three alarms. Engine 22 would have been dispatched to the scene for manpower relief had it not already been committed at the fire in Ewing. Because of all the resources tied up between the two fires, Colonial Fire Co. from Hamilton sent an engine to cover Princeton Township.)
June 4, 1999
At 8:34 p.m. on Friday, June 4, 1999, Rescue 22 was dispatched to cover Engine 1 in the City of Trenton during a two-alarm fire involving containers filled with possible hazardous materials on the loading dock at the New Jersey State Department of Agriculture facility on Warren Street. (Several firefighters were decontaminated before the containers, which had been marked “poison,” were determined to have held inorganic, non-lethal compounds.) Rescue 22 arrived at the Calhoun Street firehouse at 8:45 p.m. At 9:57 p.m. the Trenton radio room transmitted Box 2312 for a reported smoke condition inside the home at 28 Bryn Mawr Avenue. Rescue 22 was dispatched along with Engine 8, Ladder Tower 33 and Engine 6. Engine 8 was first-due but its response was delayed because, at the time, it was temporarily stationed at the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital while a new bay door was installed in the firehouse on Stuyvesant Avenue. As a result, Rescue 22 was the first apparatus to arrive on location. Rescue 22’s crew, with Trenton Ff. Paul Palombi, entered the residence and discovered that the smoke was coming from a faulty oil burner in the basement. The burner was shut off and Rescue 22 returned to Calhoun Street. No other assignments were transmitted and Rescue 22 finally returned to Station 22 at 10:52 p.m.
June 26, 1999
An automatic fire alarm system did its job and alerted firefighters to a blaze inside a Hopewell Township warehouse in the early-morning hours of Saturday, June 26, 1999. A fault in a compressor unit of a small refrigerator apparently started the blaze in a first-floor workroom at the rear of Medical Indicators Inc., located in the left half the two-story warehouse at 1589 Reed Road. Medical Indicators was not equipped with a fire alarm but there was an alarm inside Fashions of Seventh Avenue, the business located in the right half of the warehouse.
As the fire intensified inside Medical Indicators, smoke filtered to the other side of the building, triggering the Fashions fire alarm at 10:59 p.m. The Pennington Fire Co. was sent to investigate. There was an odor of smoke in the air when police and firefighters arrived on scene. After forcing entry to the Fashions side of the warehouse, firefighters realized they had a working fire and called for the full first alarm.
Pennington firefighters soon determined the fire was located in the other half of the building. Heavy smoke pushed from around the frame as soon as they began forcing their way through the metal door at the front of Medical Indicators. Because the extent of the fire was unknown at that time and items stored inside the warehouse offered a ready supply of fuel, Pennington Chief Jason Belmont requested the second alarm as a precaution about 11:22 p.m.
Lawrence Road’s Rescue 22 was among the apparatus that responded to the fireground to assist Pennington firefighters. Others came from Hopewell, Union, Lawrenceville, Pennington Road and West Trenton fire companies. Engine 22 was later dispatched to cover Pennington’s firehouse, along with an engine from the Hopewell Fire Co. and a unit from Montgomery Township. A pair of 1.75-inch handlines were stretched into Medical Indicators to attack the fire. Meanwhile, Ladder Tower 51, Telesquirt 32, and Telesquirt 53 were raised to the roof to assist in ventilation and to stand ready in case conditions inside deteriorated and master streams were needed.
Fortunately, interior crews made good progress and the fire was contained to the workroom where it began. The rest of Medical Indicators, however, sustained major smoke damage. The fire was under control by 12:05 a.m. Rescue 22’s crew assisted with overhaul and Rescue 22’s light tower and cascade were also put to work. Lawrence Road firefighters did not return to Station 22 until after 1:30 a.m. Ironically, the blaze at Medical Indicators occurred a short distance from where a two-alarm fire on January 19, 1997, destroyed one of the warehouses at the Hopewell Valley Industrial Park in the 1600 block of Reed Road.
June 29, 1999
Three people were hurt when a station wagon and car collided on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 29, 1999. The crash occurred about 5:40 p.m. on Route 206, just south of Notre Dame High School near the entrance to the Westgate apartments, when the northbound station wagon drifted across the road and hit the southbound car. Lawrence Road Lt. Steve Amiott came across the crash just moments after it occurred and used his cellular phone to report the accident. Lawrence Control then dispatched Station 21, Rescue 22 and Rescue 129. While Slackwood firefighters stood by with a charged hoseline, Rescue 22’s crew extricated the driver of the station wagon, a 45-year-old man who suffered chest and head injuries. Meanwhile, Rescue 129’s crew removed the car’s female driver and female passenger. The driver, who had been seatbelted, complained of neck and back injuries, while her passenger, who was not wearing her seatbelt, suffered lacerations to her face. Ambulances from Lawrence and Trenton then transported all three victims to the Capital Health System at Fuld hospital in Trenton for treatment.
July 3, 1999
A 40-year-old Ewing Township man who allegedly had too much to drink while watching the fireworks show at Rider University overturned his Jeep Cherokee a short time later on the evening of Saturday, July 3, 1999. Just minutes after he left the university parking lot, the man flipped his Jeep onto its passenger side next to a pole on the sidewalk in front of Sovereign Bank on Franklin Corner Road near Princeton Pike. One of the man’s legs ended up pinned under the dashboard, thus causing him to almost hang upside down inside the flipped vehicle. Station 21, Rescue 22 and Rescue 129 were all dispatched at 10:22 p.m. At the time, many Lawrence Road members were still in the parking lot at Lawrence Intermediate School where they had watched the fireworks. Rescue 129 arrived first and immediately went in service with their tools. Rescue 22 arrived moments later and took over stabilization of the vehicle and then assisted with the extrication. Cribbing, air bags, a come-along and Holmatro tools were all taken off Rescue 22 and put to work. One small air bag was damaged during the rescue. The complicated extrication was completed at 11:08 p.m. The injured man was taken to the Capital Health System at Fuld hospital in Trenton, where he was admitted in stable condition. Rescue 22 was back in quarters by 11:29 p.m.
July 8, 1999
At 1:35 p.m. on Thursday, July 8, 1999, Rescue 22 was dispatched as a special-call for cascade services to the scene a fire involving two large piles of mulch located behind the Hopewell Township municipal complex at 201 Washington Crossing-Pennington Road. Firefighters from the Pennington, Hopewell and Union fire companies were using several handlines to extinguish the fire, while a front-end loader worked to break apart the piles of mulch. The cascade on Rescue 22 was used to fill a handful of SCBA bottles. Rescue 22 was released after Telesquirt 53 arrived and its master stream was placed in service. Rescue 22 was back in quarters by 2:32 p.m.
July 20, 1999
At 2 p.m. on Tuesday, July 20, 1999, Slackwood and Lawrence Road firefighters were dispatched to one of the apartments in the Westgate apartment complex at 550 Lawrence Road for a smoke condition. Engine 22 was the first apparatus on the scene and found Slackwood Deputy Chief Mark Lenarski in with the kitchen with a moderate smoke condition. The smoke was coming from the broiler of the stove. When Ff. Michael Ratcliffe opened up the broiler, he found the burning remains of the stove’s instruction manual. A water extinguisher from Engine 22 was used to put out the burning book. The resident of the apartment then told firefighters that the stove was a new one that had just been installed by maintenance workers and that she had not thought to look inside before using it.
July 23, 1999
At 4:46 p.m. on Friday, July 23, 1999, Lawrence Control dispatched the Lawrenceville and Lawrence Road fire companies to an activated fire alarm system at the Lawrence Animal Hospital at 3975 Princeton Pike. Engine 22 responded and was held on the scene while Station 23 personnel investigated. After it was determined that the alarm had malfunctioned, Engine 22 was recalled. While traveling on Lawrence Road on the way back to the firehouse, Engine 22 passed Interstate 95. As the engine went by, Capt. Marty Burch spotted smoke rising up in the distance on the southbound side of the highway, possibly from a car fire. Engine 22 turned around and entered the highway to investigate.
At about 5:11 p.m. Engine 22 arrived in the area of the smoke, which was rising up from the line of trees separating the southbound side of Interstate 95 from Denow Road. Engine 22 parked on the shoulder of the highway and Ff. Michael Byrd and Ff. Michael Ratcliffe entered the woods to investigate. They discovered an area of brush burning along the ground, with a primary electrical wire burning overhead on a utility pole located on Denow Road. Burch radioed County Central and had Station 23 dispatched to the fire via Denow Road. Meanwhile, Byrd and Ratcliffe stretched the 1.75-inch trash line off Engine 22 and extinguished the brush fire from a safe distance.
Traffic on the interstate continued to speed past with absolutely no regard for the engine and its firefighters. As a result, Lt. Gary Wasko had to operate Engine 22’s pump using extreme caution for his own safety. A request was made for a police unit to assist with traffic control, however the police did not arrive until after the fire was out. Two Lawrenceville engines arrived and extinguished a small amount of brush burning along Denow Road. At 5:37 p.m., Engine 22 was relocated to Station 23 to stand by while the Lawrenceville firefighters waited for a PSE&G utility crew to arrive on Denow Road. Engine 22 covered Station 23 until approximately 6:20 p.m.
July 27, 1999
At 5:01 a.m. on Tuesday, July 27, 1999, the Pennington and Hopewell fire companies were dispatched to a reported structure fire at 130 King George Road in Pennington Borough. At 5:04 a.m., after several more calls about the fire were received, Mercer County Central Communications Center dispatched Rescue 22, Engine 53, Tower Ladder 33 and Engine 23 as the balance of Box 51-01’s first alarm. The blaze, which began along the exterior, was apparently started by spontaneous combustion. No one was home at the time because the house was undergoing renovations. Station 51 personnel quickly contained the flames to a small area of wall near the front door and the fire was declared under control by Pennington Chief Jason Belmont at 5:18 a.m. Rescue 22 arrived on scene at 5:20 a.m. and its crew was directed by Belmont to use their thermal imaging camera to check for hot spots inside the walls. No extension was found and Rescue 22 returned home by 5:51 a.m.
August 1, 1999
At 3:59 p.m. on Sunday, August 1, 1999, the volunteers of the Lawrence Road Fire Co. were dispatched to investigate a heavy odor of smoke near Drexel Avenue. Rescue 22, under the command of Assistant Chief Wayne Hannon, arrived on the scene at 4:03 p.m. The smoke clearly smelled like a brush fire. Rescue 22 and Deputy Chief Richard Farletta searched the area, including Notre Dame High School, but they were unable to locate the blaze. At 4:07 p.m. a captain from the Pennington Road Fire Co. radioed Mercer County Central to report a brush fire on Whitehead Road Extension in Ewing Township. The Prospect Heights Fire Co. was immediately dispatched. When Prospect Heights Chief Bill Erney signed on radio at 4:12 p.m., he was notified that Rescue 22 was already on the road investigating a smoke condition that undoubtedly was coming from the brush fire on Whitehead Road Extension. Erney initially told Rescue 22 to stand by in Lawrence. But at 4:16 p.m. he called for Rescue 22 to respond to the scene after Capt. 32-1 reported that two large areas of brush were involved and the fire was growing.
Engine 31-2 reached the scene at 4:18 p.m., followed by Rescue 22 at 4:21 p.m. Squirt 31 pulled up next at 4:24 p.m., followed two minutes later by Brush 23 (which had been special-called). Engine 31-1 arrived at 4:28 p.m. Pennington Road’s Engine 32-3 was dispatched to cover Station 31 but was then called to the scene at 4:30 p.m. It arrived at 4:34 p.m. and Telesquirt 32 was subsequently sent to stand by at Prospect Heights’ firehouse. Rescue 22’s crew went in service with a pair of 1.75-inch handlines, connected by a wye to a 3-inch line, and ultimately knocked down a large area of fire. Rescue 22 was supplied water by Squirt 31 and Engine 31-1. The situation was declared under control at 4:40 p.m. Rescue 22 finally returned to quarters by 5:29 p.m.
August 4, 1999
Shortly before 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 4, 1999, a resident of 37 Eggerts Crossing Road smelled smoke. At first, the woman checked outside. When she was unable to smell smoke there, she began to check inside. When the women opened the hatch for the attic, she was greeted by heavy smoke and saw a glow in the darkness. At 9:30 p.m., members of the Lawrence Road and Slackwood fire companies were dispatched to the two-story home for a reported structure fire. Lt. Gary Wasko, who was returning from a county firemen’s association meeting when the tones were sent out, arrived on location first and reported he had a small fire in the attic space of the dwelling. Rescue 22 then arrived and its crew stretched a 1.75-inch handline into the dwelling and up to the attic. Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze, which originated in a faulty attic exhaust fan. Firefighters then checked for extension and ventilated smoke from the dwelling. Station 22 personnel cleared the scene by 10:22 p.m. (At 9:40 p.m., while Lawrence Road firefighters were committed on Eggerts Crossing Road, an engine from Station 23 responded to an assignment involving a sparking wire on Pine Knoll Drive and Crab Apple Drive.)
August 18, 1999
Members of the Slackwood Fire Co. had just returned from a water flow alarm at Quaker Bridge Mall and were standing on the front ramp of their station when they spotted smoke rising up through the trees a short distance away on the morning of Wednesday, August 18, 1999. At first, they thought the smoke was caused by some kind of machinery being started up on Carr Avenue, which was being torn up by the township public works department so that the road could be repaved. But the smoke continued and grew heavier, so Snorkel 21 went to investigate.
Snorkel 21 arrived to find a working fire at 64 Carr Avenue. At that time, heavy smoke was issuing from the two-story house and flames were visible in a basement window on Side D. The Snorkel’s crew immediately went in service with a 1.75-inch handline supplied by the Snorkel’s 250-gallon tank. They also radioed for help. At 9:12 a.m., all three township fire companies and the first aid squad were dispatched. Engine 21-1 arrived on the scene at 9:13 a.m. and its crew helped establish a water supply for the Snorkel from a nearby hydrant. Engine 22 responded at 9:14 a.m. and arrived two minutes later. Engine 22 backed down Carr Avenue from Princeton Pike and, as per the orders of Slackwood Chief Ken Johnson, its crew reported to the front of the dwelling.
Lawrence Road Ff. Michael Peterson, Ff. Edward Kitchen and Ff. Larry Forker laddered the front of the building and assisted with ventilation. Meanwhile, Ff. Michael Byrd and Ff. Michael Ratcliffe helped Slackwood Ff. John Oakley Sr. stretch a second 1.75-inch handline through a rear door and down the basement stairs. Ladder Tower 23 arrived on location at 9:21 a.m. and its crew was ordered to stand by as the FAST Team. Engine 21 arrived with additional manpower two minutes later. The fire was declared under control at 9:24 a.m. The basement, which was furnished with various pieces of furniture including a small bed and couch, was gutted by the flames, while the remainder of the dwelling sustained light-to-moderate smoke damage. Two windows in a room on the second floor were knocked out for ventilation.
Rescue 22, which arrived on location at 9:25 a.m., went in service using its onboard cascade system to fill SCBA bottles. Telesquirt 23 arrived at 9:28 a.m. but was released from the scene just nine minutes later. During the incident, Engine 31-1 covered Station 21 and Ladder Tower 31 covered Station 22. Rescue 22 was allowed to return to quarters at 10:04 a.m., but Engine 22 was held at the scene to assist in overhaul work after the investigation into the cause of the blaze was completed. Conducting the investigation were several Lawrence Township police detectives and fire inspectors, along with Mercer County Assistant Fire Marshal John Kubilewicz and Detective Lloyd Mathis from the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office. Lawrence Road Deputy Chief Richard Farletta also assisted. The team of investigators spent more than an hour in the basement examining the charred remains of the furnishings and electrical fixtures. Once the investigation was completed, Slackwood firefighters and the crew from Engine 22 began clearing the burned items from the house. Much of the debris was passed out through a basement window. Engine 22 was finally released from the scene at approximately 12:30 p.m.
August 18, 1999
On the afternoon of Wednesday, August 18, 1999, a major hazardous materials incident occurred near the Golden Nugget Flea Market on Route 29 at the border between Hopewell Township and West Amwell Township. The incident began about 12:15 p.m. when a southbound tractor-driven car carrier operated by a 43-year-old Maryland man crossed the center line of Route 29 and collided head-on into a northbound tractor-tanker driven by a 39-year-old man from Warren County, N.J. The force of the impact caused the two big rigs to crash into a large tree on the side of the highway. A fire, fed by the diesel fuel in the tractors’ saddle tanks, quickly engulfed the rigs.
Union Fire Co. of Titusville was dispatched at 12:19 p.m. Engine 53-1 arrived first and encountered heavy fire. The driver of the car carrier somehow managed to free himself from the wreckage. But the driver of the tractor-tanker was trapped in his cab. Despite heroic rescue attempts by civilians and firefighters, the man burned to death. Mutual aid was quickly requested from both the Pennington and Hopewell fire companies, as well as from West Amwell and Lambertville in Hunterdon County. Difficulty in obtaining an accurate reading of the numbers on the burning tanker’s placard led authorities to believe the tanker’s cargo was nitriles, a poisonous, flammable material. As a result, Foam Engine 34-8 from the Trenton Mercer Airport and the Trenton Fire Department’s hazardous materials task force were special-called to the scene.
Additional resources were also dispatched from the West Trenton and Pennington Road fire companies.
At 12:43 p.m., just minutes after they returned from the basement fire at 64 Carr Avenue, Lawrence Road firefighters’ pagers were set off by Mercer County Central Communications Center with a request for Rescue 22 to respond to Hopewell Township for cascade and support duties. While enroute, Rescue 22 was ordered to respond to the Mercer County Corrections Center on Route 29 to assist EMS personnel in decontaminating victims from the accident scene.
Rescue 22, driven by Ff. Michael Peterson and commanded by Capt. Marty Burch, arrived at the jail to find at least five BLS ambulances and two ALS rigs in the EMS staging area. Ffs. Michael Byrd, Edward Kitchen, Larry Forker and Michael Ratcliffe stretched a 1.75-inch handline off Rescue 22 and took turns decontaminating three patients. Each patient, including the driver of the car carrier and one Titusville firefighter, were stripped of their clothes and hosed down for 20 minutes before being transported.
Telesquirt 23 was dispatched to assist Rescue 22 and helped build several dirt and stone dikes to prevent runoff water from the decontamination operation from entering nearby storm sewers. As the third victim was nearing the completion of decontamination, authorities at the crash scene finally learned that the burning tanker actually contained only hot tar and was not filled with any hazardous materials. Following that revelation, decontamination operations were discontinued and Rescue 22 and Telesquirt 23 were relocated to the crash scene. Both units arrived as the body of the dead man was being removed. Rescue 22’s crew were then got a close-up examination of the two burned vehicles before being released to return to Station 22. (At 3:42 p.m., just as Rescue 22 arrived back in its own district, Lawrence Road Fire Co. was dispatched to an odor of gas at 32 Smithfield Avenue. The odor was eventually traced to pesticides being sprayed by a neighbor.)
August 19, 1999
At 10:19 a.m. on Thursday, August 19, 1999, Lawrence Control dispatched Lawrence Road and Slackwood fire companies to investigate a reported “smoke condition” on Berwyn Place. Rescue 22 signed on radio at 10:21 a.m. with a crew of six firefighters led by Rescue Capt. Chris Longo. As Rescue 22 was leaving the firehouse, Chief John Fleming arrived on scene at 10:21 a.m. and reported that heavy smoke was issuing from the one-story single-family dwelling located at 151 Berwyn Place.
Two vehicles were parked in the driveway and neighbors told Fleming they thought the residents might be trapped inside the burning home. Fleming immediately advised all incoming units of the possibility of entrapment. Rescue 22 arrived on location at 10:23 a.m. Firefighters forced entry through the front door and stretched a 1.75-inch handline into the smoke-filled dwelling. While Longo and Ff. Ryan Quill and Ff. Larry Forker advanced the hose, Ff. Edward Kitchen and Ff. Michael Ratcliffe initiated a primary search of the first floor.
Rescue 22’s crew quickly determined that the fire was located in the basement. The interior door leading to the basement was located in the kitchen but it was blocked by several items, including a large water cooler. Once the obstructions were removed, the handline was advanced down the stairs to attack the flames. Firefighters encountered heavy heat and smoke as they made their way into the basement. Snorkel 21 arrived at 10:25 a.m., followed one minute later by Engine 21-1. Slackwood firefighters initially assisted Lawrence Road Driver Rob Santello in hooking Rescue 22 up to a nearby hydrant. They then helped in fire suppression and ventilation efforts. At 10:29 a.m., Engine 22 arrived with additional manpower.
A second 1.75-inch handline was advanced from Rescue 22 through the front door to the basement stairs. A third 1.75-inch handline was stretched from Rescue 22 to Side B of the home after crews in the basement reported the fire might be extending up through the ceiling and walls on that side. A fourth 1.75-inch handline was stretched from Engine 21-1 to the basement bilco doors on Side C. Slackwood Firefighter Ed Budzinski located two pet cats behind a couch in the first-floor living room. Budzinski removed the cats from the building and turned them over to a Lawrence First Aid Squad ambulance crew. The pets (which were later identified as a calico named “Munchkin” and a black cat named “Electra”) were both suffering from smoke inhalation and were revived at the scene with oxygen.
A large collection of “Star Wars” memorabilia (including two arcade-style video games, a life-sized R2D2 model, and scores of plastic action figures and other toys) stacked up from floor to ceiling made movement in the basement difficult for firefighters. Several boxes fell on top of Rescue 22’s crew as they advanced the first handline into the basement. Several other items were knocked over by firefighters’ SCBA bottles as the men fought the fire. The heavy smoke and heat also took its toll of the firefighters. At 10:35 a.m. Lawrenceville’s Telesquirt 23 (which was covering Station 22) was special-called to the scene for manpower purposes.
The fire was knocked down and under control at 10:38 a.m. The basement was gutted and much of the valuable memorabilia stored there was burned beyond recognition or melted by the heat. Several walls on the first floor had to be opened to check for fire extension. The first floor and attic also sustained heavy smoke damage. Engine 32-3 from Pennington Road Fire Co. was relocated to stand by at Station 22 after Telesquirt 23 was moved up to the fireground. But at 10:59 a.m., Fleming special-called Engine 32-3 to the scene to assist in the ongoing overhaul operations. As a result, Hopewell’s Engine 52 was dispatched to take over coverage at Lawrence Road’s firehouse. Meanwhile, Engine 31-1 from Prospect Heights Fire Co. stood by at Slackwood’s firehouse.
It was later learned that the blaze had been discovered by two painting contractors, Steve Muni and Kevin Holmes, working next door. The men smelled smoke and went to investigate while the neighbor called 911. Thinking residents were home, the men climbed through a window and made a quick search. They rescued a pet dog (a dachshund named “Chewbacca”) and exited the home through the window as firefighters were arriving. It was also later discovered that the owner of the house, Rider University Professor Donald Wygal, and his wife were away on vacation in California and that no one was home when the fire started. The investigation into the cause of the blaze was conducted by Lawrence police, Detective Lloyd Mathis of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office and Mercer County Assistant Fire Marshal John Kubilewicz. Lawrence Road Deputy Chief Richard Farletta assisted. The investigators determined that the blaze was caused when an extension cord overheated. The cord, which was attached to a dehumidifier, was found coiled beneath a small sofa next to one of the arcade games. All Lawrence Road personnel were back in quarters by 1:45 p.m.
August 23, 1999
Lawrence Road Ff./Paramedic Michael Peterson and Ff. Michael Ratcliffe came to the aid of an injured boy in Hamilton Township on the afternoon of Monday, August 23, 1999. Peterson, who is chief of the Lawrence First Aid Squad, was heading out to Hamilton to drop off his chief’s vehicle to have it relettered and restriped when a crew of contractors spotted the red lights on his car and flagged him down at about 3 p.m. on Whitehead Road. Ratcliffe, who was in his vehicle following, was also flagged down. The contractors reported that a 13-year-old boy had fallen about 25 feet from the roof of the old Goodall Rubber Co. plant where he had been playing. Peterson immediately radioed for both BLS and ALS support. Peterson, with assistance from Ratcliffe and the contractors, then began to treat the severely injured boy. At that time, the boy had a nasty head laceration and an arm injury, and was also bleeding from his nose and ears. A Lawrence ambulance and a Mercer County paramedic unit then arrived and the injured boy was rushed to the Capital Health System at Fuld hospital, where he later, amazingly, made a full recovery.
September 2, 1999
At 2:45 p.m. on Thursday, September 2, 1999, the Lawrenceville and Lawrence Road fire companies and the Lawrence First Aid Squad were dispatched to Princeton International Press at 3175 Princeton Pike for a possible structure fire. Engine 22 signed on radio at 2:47 p.m., followed one minute later by Telesquirt 23. At that time, Lawrence Control advised all responding apparatus that the fire involved a large dumpster located at the rear of the building. Lawrenceville Capt. Butch Bentley arrived about the same time and reported there was no exposure to the structure. Telesquirt 23 positioned itself next to the dumpster and went in service with a 1.75-inch handline. Rescue 22 backed up to Telesquirt 23 for water supply. Ultimately, all 500 gallons in Engine 22’s tank were used. Engine 22’s crew, wearing SCBA, manned the handline and moved in on the dumpster, which was giving off a lot of smoke from all the paper and plastic products burning inside. The dumpster’s door was opened and Lawrence Road firefighters used pike poles and a trash hook to spread out the rubbish so it could be wet down. Rescue 22 was released from the scene at 3:18 p.m. and was back in quarters at 3:30 p.m.
September 13, 1999
On the night of Monday, September 13, 1999, the Lawrence First Aid Squad was dispatched to care for a fall victim in a second floor apartment at Eggerts Crossing Village at 175 Johnson Avenue. The squad’s ambulance arrived to find that their patient was a 44-year-old woman weighing an estimated 500 pounds. The woman, who had fallen while climbing out of bed, was suffering a variety of medical problems, including congestive heart failure. Michael Peterson, chief of the squad (and a Station 22 firefighter), initially had Rescue 129 dispatched to the scene for additional personnel to help lift the obese woman. When it became apparent that even more manpower would be needed, Peterson special-called Rescue 22 from Lawrence Road Fire Co. At 8:58 p.m. Mercer County Central dispatched Station 22 to the assignment. Rescue 22 arrived on location at 9:01 p.m. At about that time, Mercer County paramedics decided it would be easier to remove the woman through the window in her second-floor bedroom instead of attempting to take her down the apartment’s narrow stairway. Therefore, a request was made at 9:03 p.m. for Slackwood Fire Co. to respond to the scene with Snorkel 21.
Rescue 22 was positioned nearby so its light tower could be put in service, while Snorkel 21 was backed up to the apartment building and its bucket raised to the second-floor bedroom window. Meanwhile, Lawrence Road firefighters removed the glass from the window and also moved several pieces of furniture in the bedroom out of the way. Squad personnel and the crew from Rescue 22 then placed the woman, who was lying on the floor, on a stokes basket. Straps and rope were used to secure the woman to the basket. With more than a dozen first aid squad members and firefighters helping to lift, the stokes basket was lifted and passed through the open window. It was placed onto the rails of the Snorkel’s bucket and slowly lowered to the ground. The stretcher was removed from the ambulance and the woman (still in the stokes basket) was slid into the ambulance and transported to the Capital Health System at Fuld hospital in Trenton. Lawrence Road Firefighters Edward Kitchen and Walter Hlewicki accompanied Rescue 129 to the hospital to assist in lifting the woman from the ambulance onto a hospital bed. The woman was admitted to the critical care unit for congestive heart failure. Rescue 22 signed off radio at Station 22 at 9:59 p.m.
September 16, 1999
On the morning of Thursday, September 16, 1999, Hurricane Floyd breezed up to New Jersey and dumped between 6.5 and 9 inches of rain all over Mercer County. Like firefighters throughout the state, the members of the Lawrence Road Fire Co. were called to duty during the storm. Station 22 personnel responded to 23 emergencies, including a handful of water rescues, between 10 a.m. that day and the afternoon of Saturday,
September 18, 1999
It all began at about 10 a.m. on Thursday, September 16, 1999, when Engine 22 was dispatched by Mercer County Central to stand by at Station 23. At the time, both the Lawrenceville and Slackwood fire companies were committed at Quaker Bridge Mall investigating a smoke condition caused by an electrical problem. During the standby, Engine 22’s crew investigated a water condition in the basement of the residence at 89 Phillips Avenue. As there was only a very small amount of water in the basement at that time, the homeowner was advised to monitor the situation and contact Station 23 if the water level increased.
At 10:48 a.m., Engine 22 was released from the standby at Station 23 to respond to a smoke condition at 1937 Brunswick Pike. Engine 22 was recalled after Slackwood firefighters arrived and discovered that the problem was related to an apparent lightning strike and there was no fire. At 12:22 p.m., Utility 22 was sent to investigate a water condition at 13 Pine Knoll Drive. Utility 22’s crew found that the kitchen and enclosed rear porch of the home were under several inches of water. Two wet-vacs were placed in service to remove the water. The operation was completed by 1:15 p.m.
Between 12:52 p.m. and 1:39 p.m., Chief 22 and Utility 22 investigated other water conditions at 22 Zoar Street, 2371 Princeton Pike, and 196 Eldridge Avenue. In all cases, the water was below the level at which portable pumps could operate. The residents were advised to monitor the situation and call Station 22 if the water level rose. Station 22 firefighters next responded to two false alarms in Slackwood’s district caused by malfunctioning alarm systems. The runs were to 2350 Princeton Pike at 2:06 p.m. and to 44 Myrtle Street at 2:34 p.m.
At 4:30 p.m., Lawrence Control dispatched Slackwood and Lawrence Road firefighters and the Lawrence First Aid Squad to a reported fire inside the laundry room of one of the apartment buildings in the Meadow Woods complex at 423 Lawrence Road. Both Engine 22 and Rescue 22 responded. Slackwood firefighters arrived first and made a quick knock down, containing the blaze to a small area of the wall inside the laundry room. Lawrence Road firefighters were held on their apparatus and then returned to Station 22 at 4:55 p.m. At 5:44 p.m., Utility 22 was sent back to 13 Pine Knoll Drive and one wet-vac was utilized to remove more flood water from the home. At 5:46 p.m., Station 22 was dispatched to 3140 Princeton Pike to help Lawrenceville Fire Co. check a fire alarm that was set off by water leaking through the roof. Engine 22 and Rescue 22 responded. At 7:24 p.m., Utility 22 investigated a water condition at 20 Pine Knoll Drive but no service was needed.
A civilian stopped into Station 22 at 8:37 p.m. to report that a woman was trapped in her car in flood water near the Shabakunk Creek on Princeton Pike near Fairfield Avenue. Rescue 22 responded and arrived to find that the woman had been already helped from the water by Lawrence Police Patrolman Dave Burns. At 9 p.m., Lawrence Control notified Station 22 that the caretaker of 103 Merline Avenue had reported a water condition in the home. Utility 22 responded to the scene but was not met by the caretaker. As a result, entry to the home could not be gained. The exterior was checked with no hazards found and Utility 22 returned to quarters.
At 9:41 p.m., Mercer County Central dispatched Rescue 22 to 3000 Brunswick Pike to help Lawrenceville Fire Co. evacuate the Sleepy Hollow Motel, which was surrounded by flood water about three feet deep and rising. Rescue 22 was positioned on a nearby section of Route 1 where the flood water was only about one foot deep at that time. Rescue 22’s light tower was raised to illuminate the scene and Rescue 22’s crew cab was used as a temporary shelter to warm evacuees before they were moved to an ambulance and school bus waiting at Franklin Corner Road. Marine 129 from the Lawrence First Aid Squad (manned, in part, by Lawrence Road Ffs. Edward Kitchen, Walter Hlewicki and Shaun Dlabik), Marine 31 from Prospect Heights Fire Co. and Marine 32 from the Pennington Road Fire Co. were utilized to remove the motel occupants from their rooms. Rescue 22’s crew stood by on Route 1 and helped remove the many evacuees from the boats. Approximately 29 adults and five children were evacuated. Rescue 22 returned to Station 22 at 11 p.m.
The next assignment for Lawrence Road firefighters was not dispatched until the following morning. At 7:48 a.m. on Friday, September 17, 1999, Rescue 22 was sent to assist the Lawrenceville Fire Co. in rescuing the occupants of two cars that tried to drive through the flood water on northbound Route 1at Franklin Corner Road. Because Route 206 was the only north-south road open (sections of both Princeton Pike and Route 1 were still closed by flood water at that time), traffic in front of Station 22 was bumper-to-bumper. Rescue 22 fought itself way out of the firehouse and through heavy traffic along the section of Brunswick Pike that was still open between Texas Avenue and Darrah Lane. Rescue 22 and Chief 22 accessed the scene from northbound Route 1 and staged at the intersection with Franklin Corner Road, while Lawrenceville’s apparatus came down Franklin Corner Road and staged in the parking lot of the gas station at the corner. Chief John Fleming and the crew from Rescue 22 then waded through the flood water to escort the occupants of the partially-submerged vehicles to dry land.
When told that the Mount’s Motel was still occupied and that it was entirely surrounded by flood water, Lawrence Police Patrolman Michael Yeh ordered a mandatory evacuation of the Mount’s Motel (which is located a few hundred feet from the Sleepy Hollow Motel). Rescue 129 and Marine 129 from the Lawrence First Aid Squad were special-called to the scene to assist. Crews from both fire companies and the first aid squad then waded through the flood water and began pounding on doors to notify the motel occupants of the mandatory evacuation. Women and children were evacuated using Marine 129, while men were escorted through the flood water by a chain of firefighters. One man initially refused to evacuate. But after Patrolman Yeh rode over in Marine 129 and made it clear to the man he would be arrested if he did not leave, he finally cooperated. A handful of evacuees were carried out in the bucket of a township front-end loader. A total of about two dozen people were removed.
At 8:43 a.m., while the operation at the Mount’s Motel was still underway, Engine 22 was dispatched to aid Slackwood Fire Co. at another water rescue on Whitehead Road at Route 1. When they arrived, firefighters found that a pickup truck was almost entirely submerged in flood water near the Assunpink Creek bridge. Rescue 1 from the Trenton Fire Department was special-called to assist in rescuing the pickup’s driver, who stood atop his vehicle. The man refused to wait for Trenton’s boat to arrive and decided to make his own way through the water. Firefighters yelled to the man and urged him to stay where he was, but the man refused to stop and waded through water that was more than chest-deep. Amazingly, the man avoided being swept into the creek and made his way to safety. Engine 22 cleared the scene and was back at Station 22 by 9:30 a.m. Because they were already in the area when they were recalled from Whitehead Road, Trenton’s Rescue 1 proceeded up the road to assist at Route 1 and Franklin Corner Road. The evacuation of the Mount’s Motel was completed prior to their arrival, however both of Rescue 1’s boats were deployed to check the homes along Bakers Basin Road, which was entirely under water. Trenton firefighters helped remove a handful of residents, as well as a variety of pets, including some llamas and goats, from Lawrence Landscaping. Rescue 22 finally left Route 1 and Franklin Corner Road and was back at Station 22 by 10:45 a.m.
But that was not the end of storm-related activity for Lawrence Road firefighters. At 11 a.m. a fallen power line was reported at 1146 Lawrence Road. The wire, which was still energized, was pinned beneath a large tree limb that had fallen on the front lawn and sidewalk. The area was secured with caution tape and PSE&G alerted. From 11:48 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Utility 22’s crew pumped approximately 1.5 feet of flood water from the basement of the home at 70 Merline Avenue. Later that afternoon, a group of Lawrence Road members finally made a delayed departure for Wildwood to attend the 122nd annual New Jersey State Firemen’s Convention. However, several members remained in town to respond to any additional alarms.
The following day, Saturday, September 18, 1999, at 12:45 p.m. Engine 22 was dispatched to assist Station 21 personnel at a car fire on Route 1. However, Engine 22 was recalled prior to arriving on scene. At 2:50 p.m., the Lawrenceville Fire Co. and Rescue 22 were sent to an accident involving an overturned vehicle on the southbound side of Route 1 in the area of the Red Roof Inn. Firefighters arrived to find that there was no entrapment. As per the orders of Chief 23, Rescue 22 stood by on the scene with its manpower until 4 p.m. The last call to which Lawrence Road firefighters responded during the weekend of Hurricane Floyd was a dewatering assignment at 55 Alamawr Avenue. It was dispatched at 4:25 p.m. and Utility 22 was in service until 5:44 p.m. using a portable pump and one wet-vac to remove approximately six inches of water from the basement.
October 16, 1999
At 3:38 p.m. on Saturday, October 16, 1999, both the Lawrence Road and Slackwood fire companies were dispatched to a reported smoke condition at 26 Cheverly Road. Rescue 22 signed on radio at 3:39 p.m., followed by Snorkel 21 at 3:40 p.m. and Engine 22-1 at 3:41 p.m. Rescue 22’s crew arrived to find that smoke in the residence was coming from a fire smoldering beneath the fireplace. Apparently, cracks in the mortar had allowed embers from the fireplace to ignite the floor beams. Numerous hand tools and an air chisel were utilized to tear up the brick bed of the fireplace and expose the charred and smoldering beams of the floor. The fire was extinguished and a smoke ejector used to vent the home. Lawrence Road Fire Co. provided the residents with a smoke detector. All Station 22 personnel were back in quarters by 5 p.m.
November 13, 1999
Three motor vehicle accidents kept Lawrence Road firefighters busy on Saturday, November 13, 1999. At 1:03 p.m. Lawrence Control dispatched Station 22, Rescue 129, and Squad 129 to the intersection of Lawrence Road and Eggerts Crossing Road for a crash involving an overturned vehicle and possible entrapment. Rescue 22 signed on radio at 1:05 p.m. and arrived just one minute later to find that a Jeep Cherokee had flipped over onto its roof after colliding with a car. The driver of the sport utility suffered only a minor knee injury and was able to crawl from his vehicle. The man refused medical treatment. Rescue 22’s crew spread absorbent material to soak up fluids spilled from the overturned vehicle and stood by while a towing company uprighted and removed the Jeep. Lawrence Road Fire Police Capt. Bob Hazen helped divert northbound traffic onto Wayside Lane. Southbound traffic meanwhile was sent up Eggerts Crossing Road.
Rescue 22 returned to Station 22 at 1:41 p.m. Less than 20 minutes later the second accident occurred on Lawrence Road in front of the firehouse parking lot when a car driven by a man from Germany partially struck the rear of a car carrying two women and three children. Rescue Capt. Chris Longo, who happened to be pulling into the firehouse parking lot at the time, reported the accident and called for an ambulance. Additional Lawrence Road firefighters came over to assist and Utility 22 was pulled out behind the women’s car, which was still in the middle of the road and posed a traffic hazard. Although there was no visible sign of damage to their car, both women and all three children complained of neck and back pain. As a result, Squad 129 personnel had to board and collar all five patients. Lawrence Road firefighters assisted in packaging the patients. A makeshift triage area was set up in the parking lot of the firehouse. Two Lawrence ambulances and one Trenton ambulance was utilized to transport all five patients to the emergency room at the Capital Health System at Fuld hospital in Trenton. Traffic on Lawrence Road was stopped for a brief period while the five patients were removed from the vehicle and loaded onto the ambulances.
About 5:10 p.m. a multi-vehicle accident was reported in the northbound lanes of Route 1, just south of Bakers Basin Road near the Mrs. G’s appliance store. Squad 129 was dispatched. Further information was received reporting entrapment and Lawrence Control dispatched Station 21, Rescue 22 and Rescue 129 at 5:12 p.m. Rescue 22 signed on radio at 5:14 p.m. with a crew composed of Capt. Jim Moran, Lt. Gary Wasko, and Ffs. Andy Fosina, Edward Kitchen and Michael Ratcliffe. One minute later Rescue 22 and Rescue 129 were recalled because a police officer on the scene reported that no one was trapped. Rescue 22 returned to Station 22 at 5:16 p.m. At 5:17 p.m. Slackwood Deputy Chief Mark Lenarski arrived on the scene and discovered that there indeed was entrapment. Rescue 22 and Rescue 129 were again dispatched at 5:19 p.m.. Both the driver and passenger of one of the vehicles were trapped. The passenger was quickly extricated but the driver was caught behind the steering column and had his legs pinned by the dashboard.
Rescue 22’s crew set up on the passenger side of the vehicle, while Rescue 129’s crew set up on the driver side. Ff. Ratcliffe (being the smallest emergency responder on scene) was sent into the rear of the vehicle to hold and immobilize the neck of the patient while the rescue crews cut the A and B posts and folded the roof back. Rams were then utilized to push the dashboard off the man’s legs. The steering wheel was also cut off its column. The heavyset man was then maneuvered onto a backboard and finally removed from the wreckage at 5:44 p.m. He was then transported to the trauma unit at the Capital Health System at Fuld hospital. The entire northbound side of Route 1 was closed during the extrication and northbound traffic reportedly backed all the way up to Perry Street in Trenton. Rescue 22 returned to Station 22 by 6:15 p.m.
December 7, 1999
Lawrence Road firefighters helped extricate a woman from her car after it collided with another car at the corner of Brunswick Pike and Slack Avenue on the afternoon of Tuesday, December 7, 1999. Following the impact between the vehicles, one of the cars crashed onto the sidewalk and struck one of the metal posts surrounding the car lot of C.R. Cregar & Sons. The woman who was driving the vehicle was trapped in her seat because the driver’s side was dented and crushed, and the passenger’s side was obstructed by a utility pole. Station 21 and Rescue 129 were initially dispatched by Lawrence Control at 1:39 p.m.. Rescue 22 was toned out one minute later by Mercer County Central Communications Center. Engine 21-1 and Rescue 22 both signed on radio at 1:41 p.m., while Rescue 129 responded at 1:44 p.m. Slackwood’s engine arrived on scene at 1:42 p.m., followed two minutes later by Rescue 22. Rescue 129 reached the scene at 1:47 p.m. Under the direction of Deputy Chief Richard Farletta and Rescue Capt. Chris Longo, Ff. Joe Dlabik Jr. cribbed the vehicle, Ff. Edward Kitchen used the spreaders to pop open the driver’s door, and Ff. Michael Ratcliffe used the O-cutter to remove the door. Longo and Ff./EMT Andy Fosina then assisted in packaging the patient. The woman was freed from the car at 1:56 p.m. and was taken by ambulance to the Capital Health System at Fuld hospital in Trenton for treatment.
December 7, 1999
At 8 p.m. on Tuesday, December 7, 1999, members of the Lawrence Road Fire Co. were dispatched to the corner of Lawrence Road and Lawrence Avenue after police Patrolman Michael Yeh was struck by a car while directing traffic for St. Ann’s Church. Ff./EMT Andy Fosina, who was in the firehouse when the tones went out, was among the first on the scene. Fosina helped care for Yeh, who suffered a leg injury, and responded with him to the hospital in a Lawrence ambulance. Station 22 members then helped police direct traffic during the investigation.
December 30, 1999
Lawrence Road Fire Chief John Fleming and Past Chief Charles Commini ended 1999 by rescuing several people from a burning condominium building in the Lawrence Square Village development.
It was 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, December 30, 1999, when Lawrence Control dispatched the Lawrenceville and Slackwood fire companies on Box 23-5 for a structure fire on Rickard Court in Lawrence Square Village. Mercerville Fire Co. and Telesquirt 43 from West Windsor were then dispatched on the first alarm by the Mercer County Central Communications Center. At 11:32 p.m. Engine 24 from Lawrenceville’s substation arrived and reported heavy smoke issuing from a three-story condominium building. They then reported heavy fire showing from a first-floor unit on Side A.
Fleming and Commini, who had been at Quaker Bridge Plaza when they heard the first alarm transmitted, arrived on scene just moments after a group of civilians caught a 6-month-old girl and a 4-year-old boy in a blanket. The children had been thrown from the third-floor by their mother. With help from some bystanders, Fleming and Commini raised a ladder into position on Side D of the fire building and then (without the protection of any turnout gear) climbed to the third floor and through a window into the apartment where the children’s mother and their babysitter were trapped. Realizing it would be impossible to get the two women down the stairway, which by that time was choked with heavy smoke, Fleming and Commini helped the women through the window and down the ladder to safety. They also helped rescue another woman from a second-floor window.
Meanwhile, arriving on the scene were Engine 12 at 11:35 a.m.; Telesquirt 23 at 11:39 a.m.; Snorkel 21 at 11:40 a.m.; Rescue 12 at 11:40 a.m.; Engine 21 at 11:42 a.m.; and Telesquirt 43 at 11:45 a.m. Lawrenceville Chief Bob Brackett, who arrived on location at 11:37 a.m., called the second alarm at 11:40 a.m. and Mercer County Central dispatched Engine 22, Tower Ladder 17 and Tower Ladder 44. Engine 22 signed on radio at 11:41 a.m. and arrived at 11:47 a.m.
All second alarm units, including Engine 22, as well as Engine 23, were kept in staging at Lawrenceville’s substation. At 11:56 a.m. the fire was declared under control and all second alarm companies were recalled. Brackett then made a request for a cascade unit and Rescue 22 was special-called. Rescue 22 responded at 12:08 p.m. Rescue 22’s cascade system was used to fill several SCBA bottles before returning to quarters by 1 p.m. The fire, which was apparently caused by an electrical fault, gutted the first-floor unit where it started and caused damage to the units located above it. Amazingly, there were no serious injuries, thanks in part to the quick work of many civilians, Fleming and Commini, and firefighters. During the incident, Engine 52 covered Station 23, Engine 14-2 covered Station 12 and Ladder Tower 31 stood by at Station 21.