After budget cuts brought on in great part by poor leadership at the state level from both political parties under Governors Whitman, McGreevey, Codey, and Corzine the City of Camden laid of a large number of its professional fire department at the end of 2010. Former Chief David A. Yates had offered three plans on how to cope with the situation, all were rejected by parties at Camden's City Hall, and a plan for the Fire Department, which to date I have not been able to find out who authored, was handed back to the Chief. Chief Yates subsequently chose to retire, and Chief Michael Harper was appointed as his replacement. Chief Harper inherited a no-win situation, and the losses began almost immediately. With Fire companies closed in different parts of the city, response times to fire calls increased, homes that could have been saved were destroyed, and civilians injured.
On June 6, 2011 a vacant two-story twin at 821-823 of Chestnut Street was destroyed by fire. Three days later, on June 9, fire broke out in the abandoned warehouse on Chestnut Street that formerly housed the Reliable Tire Company. When the few available local units arrived on the scene, hydrants were found to have been vandalized, delaying efforts to extinguish the blaze, which soon went to 12 alarms. Units were called in from surrounding communities, obviously taking a great deal of time to arrive on scene. In the mean time, high winds caused the fire to spread to adjacent buildings that formerly were occupied by the Camden Pottery Company, and homes on Orchard, Louis, and Mount Vernon Streets. Ten occupied homes were completely destroyed, as were all the industrial buildings, and thirteen other homes on Chestnut Street were badly damaged by smoke and water. Conditions and results of this blaze mimicked in almost every way the Poet's Row fire of August, 1972 where a vacant leather factory once occupied by the John R. Evans & Company caught fire and two and one-half full city blocks of homes on Byron, Burns, and Milton Streets were completely and utterly destroyed.... a deadly combination of an old and abandoned industrial building, short-staffed fire department, low water pressure and high winds being among the contributing factors.
In the early morning hours of June 11, 2011 another abandoned industrial building was reported to be on fire. The former Howland Croft, Sons & Company mill on Broadway between Winslow and Jefferson Streets was devastated by a blaze that went to eight alarms. One house at the corner of South 4th and Winslow and three homes on Winslow Street were damaged by smoke and water, but fortunately, none were destroyed.
Rumors of arson were flying through the city when, on Tuesday, June 14 a vacant twin at 107 North 34th Street was gutted, with the adjacent home taking a great deal of smoke and water damage.
On June 19, ANOTHER vacant industrial building went up in flames. The building in the 1600 block of Federal Street, originally a soap works and in more recent times a facility belonging to Concord Chemical, went up in flames. This fire was confirmed as an arson a few days later.
In the meantime, calls for fire service great and small continued. On June 23rd, a vacant industrial building in the 1000 block of Empire Avenue saw fire, just a few days after the Concord Chemical blaze. On June 25th, a fire was knocked down in the vacant building at Davis and Copewood Streets, the original home of the Coriell Institute, now located on Haddon Avenue.
At 11:47 PM on the night of June 25, the Camden Fire Department was called on to extinguish a blaze at 1018 Kenwood Avenue in the Parkside neighborhood. Camden City companies were dispatched to 1018 Kenwood Avenue when multiple callers reported a working fire. Camden County Dispatch advised that the homeowner had gone back into the dwelling and did not exit. EMS arrived and reported all occupants to be out of the structure. Squad 7 arrived with heavy fire showing from division 2 of a two story end of the row dwelling. Battalion 1 placed all hands in service. Crews knocked the fire quickly without injuries. Another fire was extinguished at 925 & 927 North 3rd Street on Monday, June 27th.
In the early morning hours of July 2, 2011 a fire was extinguished at 1304 Sheridan Street, and as it was being wrapped up, the corner store at 876 Fairview Street went up in flames, with adjoining homes being damaged by smoke and water.
At 1:55 AM on the morning of July 5, 2011 units of the Camden Fire Department extinguished a fire at the River Link Ferry pier at Wiggins Park. Ron Trout from www.phillyfirenews.com reported the following:
B/C 1 reported he had fire on the River Link Ferry Pier with extension to the actual ferry. Engine 6 went in service with the deck gun as Squad 7 and the rest of Engine 6's crew stretched 2.5 inch hand lines. S/C PFD Marine Unit 1. Command reported the fire was contained to the pier with minimal extension to the ferry
For more coverage of this incident, click here.
Another vacant industrial building fell on the night of July 5, 2011 when the former home of the Clement Coverall Company at 615 Van Hook Street was destroyed by fire. The building, which dated back to at least 1896, had been designated a hazardous site by the EPA, Clement Coverall having been in the manufacture of varnishes and coatings for over 80 years at that location. The fire went to two alarms, with units from Gloucester City, Oaklyn, and Collingswood rendering assistance to Camden's Fire Department. The fire was determined to have been an arson, and a drug-abusing prostitute who had been squatting in the building was arrested for setting the fire..
At 5:55 PM on July 7, 2011 a house fire was reported at 2930 Kansas Road in the Fairview section of Camden. Responding companies arrived in the middle of a brief but sever thunderstorm. Ted Aurig from www.phillyfirenews.com reported that Camden Fire Department's Engine Company 10 "arrived with fire showing from the 2nd floor of a 2 story E/O/R dwelling. 2 hand lines placed in operation. Searches negative." For more coverage of this fire, click here.
As with the web page covering other Camden Fire Department events, if you can identify anyone that I've missed, please e-mail me. (I'm terrible at at names and faces).
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|Camden Courier-Post * June 8, 2011|
forces four from house
By Joe Cooney
A single-alarm fire heavily damaged a home here in the 2900 block of Kansas Road Thursday evening, displacing a family of four.
The fire broke out about 6 p.m. in a second-floor bedroom. A Camden fire marshal on the scene declined to talk to a reporter, but the owner of the home said a firefighter told him a mattress caught fire.
Al Fatale, who rented the three-bedroom house to a woman with three children, said even though the fire was contained to the bedroom, the entire house would have to be gutted.
"It's as if the whole house went up," Fatale said, as he waited to speak with the fire marshal.
"A fireman told me a mattress burned and there was a big circle (of fire) around the mattress," Fatale said, noting that the house was inspected "not more than a month ago for smoke detectors."
"Thank God for inspections, and thank God nobody got hurt. But I've got to gut the whole thing. There's water throughout the house and the smell from the smoke is terrible."
Camy Trinidad, executive director of the Camden County Red Cross, said the woman and her children will be provided assistance.
"We're making sure the family has a place to stay through the weekend," Trinidad said. "So we'll be putting them up for four nights and on Monday we'll re-evaluate the woman's situation."
The city has seen a rash of fires over the last month, three of them large blazes in abandoned warehouses. A two-alarm fire Tuesday gutted the former Clement Coverall Co., a structure at 6th Street and Carl Miller Bouleveard. And on Saturday a fire destroyed a Fairview Street convenience store and the apartment above it and heavily damaged two other homes.
Officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have declared a June 19th blaze at a former chemical plant along Federal Street as being deliberately set.
Causes for the other fires have not been determined.
Reach Joe Cooney at (856) 317-7830 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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