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.
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).
ON IMAGES FOR ENLARGED
|Channel 6 Action News|
|Philadelphia Inquirer www.phiily.com - July 5, 2011|
Map diagramming buildings and streets in Camden
Click on Images to Enlarge
|The Clement Coverall Co. occupied he buildings at the lower right|
The building at the rear have been gone for many years. Only the former office (blue) and "Mfg Stge & Off" building (pink) were still standing at the time of the fire. As late as 1929 there were three small business at 621, 623, and 625 Van Hook Street. By 1940 they were gone.
The map was originally put together in 1926. It was updated periodically, with corrections being glued in. These can be seen in the image at left.
heat from the fire across the street broke the
|Camden Courier-Post * July 6, 2011|
try to contain a blaze at 6th Street and Carl Miller Boulevard in Camden
on Tuesday night. The building was destroyed. / TED
fire destroys abandoned factory in Camden
Lucas K. Murray
A two-alarm fire ripped through an abandoned factory in South Camden
late Tuesday night, destroying another vacant building.
were called to 6th Street and Carl Miller Boulevard just after 10 p.m.
to the former Clement's coverall facility.
crews were met with flames shooting from the front windows. Within an
hour, the fire was placed under control.
Chief Michael Harper said Clement's was a maker of paints and lacquers,
who pulled out of Camden about 15 years ago.
one was hurt, but some homes across the boulevard started to smoke as
the flames grew more intense.
guys did a great job of putting it down, keeping it contained,"
Harper said. "We were a little concerned that the nearby homes were
going to go up."
was the fourth major fire in an old manufacturing or retail facility in
the city in a month.
June 9, a 12-alarm fire destroyed the former Reliable Tire building and
the better part of two city blocks in Camden's Gateway section.
as firefighters were putting out the last hot spots in the burning
rubble, they were summoned to an early morning fire at an old fabric and
garment factory on Broadway in Waterfront South on June 11.
on June 19, fire destroyed the vacant Concord Chemical building on
blaze at the recently remediated EPA Superfund sight was deemed an arson
by federal officials. A cause of the latest fire and the first two have
not been determined.
all the major calls, Harper said his firefighters are still dedicated to
serving the city.
always willing to do what they have to do," Harper said.
"They're workers. I'm proud of them."
The chief said the contents of the three-story building were largely gone. Firefighters were there about a month ago to put out a trash fire.
|Philadelphia Inquirer * July 6, 2011|
hits 5th vacant warehouse in Camden
are trying to determine the cause of the fifth fire in a month in a vacant
warehouse building in Camden.
rash of fires in structures mostly from the city's faded industrial era
has prompted the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and
Explosives to send a team to help Camden officials determine what is
latest fire - a two-alarm blaze - was reported about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday at
the old Clement Coverall Co. plant at Sixth Street and Carl Miller
Boulevard in the Centerville neighborhood, officials said.
injuries were reported and the blaze was declared under control around
upper floor of the two-story brick building collapsed during the fire.
Cracolici, 56, who is staying with friends across the street from the
building, said flames were leaping from the top floor windows at the hight
of the blaze.
smoke was outrageous," he said. "We were lucky the smoke was
blowing away form the house."
said fire marshals were asking residents if they had heard an explosion,
but none reported that they did.
the state Department of Environmental Protection, the building was closed
said Clement Coverall had manufactured both solvent and water based
industrial paints and varnishes at the site starting in 1926.
businesses included a hosiery factory (1891-1906) and leather tanning
operation (1906-1926), the DEP said.
were still at the site this morning, hosing down smoking embers.
have determined that arson was the cause of a fire June 20 in a former
detergent factory in East Camden.
earlier suspicious warehouse blazes remain under investigation, although
determining the causes in the first two may prove difficult, officials
first suspicious fire was a 12-alarm blaze June 9 that started in a former
tire-distribution center near the city's Parkside section that damaged 23
buildings, 10 of them occupied. More than half of the buildings were
severely damaged, and 16 families lost their homes.
second, eight-alarm fire occurred June 11, gutting a former garment
factory in the Waterfront South neighborhood. Homes near the factory were
June 20 fire was the third blaze and on June 23 a one-alarm blaze burned
through an abandoned building on the 1000 block of Magnolia Avenue in the
ATF has offered a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the
arrest and conviction of those responsible for the June 20 East Camden
with information is asked to call a special hotline at 1-888-283-3473.
Camden has about 3,000 abandoned buildings, many of which are used frequently by drug dealers, prostitutes, and scrap metal thieves.
Photos by Phil
Cohen - July 6, 2011
|John Church & Agripino Figueroa|
ON IMAGES FOR ENLARGED
|Camden Courier-Post * July 7, 2011|
Serial arsonist? String of Camden fires has residents wondering
By Lucas K. Murray & George Mast
Two major Camden fires in less than a week last month might be considered
coincidence in a city suffering from the dry, June heat.
two more blazes since in similar buildings have residents wondering whether
there's an arsonist on the loose.
two-alarm fire Tuesday -- the smallest of four to hit century-old buildings
in recent weeks -- gutted the former Clement Coverall Co., a structure at
6th Street and Carl Miller Boulevard that most recently housed an industrial
paints and varnishes manufacturer.
Gene Robinson is among many convinced the string of fires is more than mere
definitely bigger is going on here," Robinson said while waiting
outside nearby Creative Arts High School to pick up his younger cousin.
"It's getting out of control.
won't be the last one either."
cited theories on the street about who could be behind the fires, everything
from building owners seeking insurance money, to disgruntled firefighters
protesting layoffs to efforts at redeveloping tracts of land in Camden.
is in fear of their houses being burned down; they are just thinking what
big building is next?" Robinson said.
common thread among the fires is that each was a multiple-alarm blaze that
destroyed a vacant building. Tuesday's blaze is being investigated by state
and local authorities, along with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to Camden County Prosecutor's
Office spokesman Jason Laughlin.
officials -- who brought in a team of nearly 20 highly trained investigators
to investigate the warehouse fire last month at a former chemical plant
along Federal Street -- didn't return calls for comment Wednesday. But they
have already declared the June 19 Federal Street fire arson.
for a 12-alarm blaze in the city's Gateway section June 9 and an eight-alarmer
days later in neighboring Waterfront South have not been determined.
now, there are a lot of questions, but the severity of the fires and
frequency of the fires certainly give us pause," Laughlin said.
officials declined to speculate on the possibility of arson.
the recent fires are being investigated and the city will continue working
with all the law enforcement agencies to find the party or parties
responsible for these acts," City Spokesman Robert Corrales said.
month, Police Chief Scott Thomson said his officers would remain diligent in
patrolling near abandoned buildings. Mayor Dana Redd said Wednesday,
"Our main concern is to keep our residents safe from other potential
Massa, 29, ventured up to the burned-out building at 6th and Carl Miller
Wednesday to see if two friends who had been squatting inside the old
warehouse had escaped the blaze. Massa, who lives in a nearby abandoned
building, said the string of recent warehouse fires has alarmed squatters
like herself across the city.
is concerned," she said.
the fires began, homeless outreach workers have been active in removing
squatters from abandoned buildings. But Massa said she and her boyfriend
have no plans to move out for now despite fears of an arsonist. With no
income, Massa said she has no other option but to stay and hope her building
doesn't erupt in flames.
Gonzalez had to move out of his house behind the former Concord Chemical
plant for 10 days after the large warehouse there went up in flames last
month. The 28-year-old musician is concerned an empty food distribution
warehouse at the end of his street may be the next to burn.
community is definitely worried about this," Gonzalez said. "It
isn't good. (Warehouses) are all over the place."
are a number of abandoned structures in Gonzalez's neighborhood. Across the
street from Concord Chemical, a massive structure sits empty -- home to
South Camden, Pastor Al Stewart of Camden Rescue Mission cited a clear
concern among residents, but he sees hope.
suspicious that given the investigations that have gone on and the
conclusions they've drawn, that we have a firebug problem here in the
city," Stewart said.
going to work with the council and our mayor and police and fire departments
to resolve this problem."
Rescue Mission acquired the Clement Coverall building through a donation
more than 10 years ago, Stewart said. The intent was to use the space as a
warehouse facility for the mission's work.
was until it was discovered the 1.33-acre site was contaminated with
dangerous chemicals from its former life as a fabric dying company, a
leather tanning operation and a paint and varnish company.
discovered after we received it that it was a brownfield and that there were
some environmental problems there," Stewart said, adding that a $28,000
grant was being pursued to facilitate a cleanup.
there is an arsonist, he added, it's going to take the effort of all of
city will get beyond this. It's a matter of us pulling together our
resources, which is our people.
"The most important product of Camden is our people and getting them to pay attention."
|Philadelphia Inquirer * July 7, 2011|
Another Warehouse Fire Strikes Camden
By Claudia Vargas
Two major Camden fires in less than a week last month might be considered
coincidence in a city suffering from the dry, June heat.
a yellow excavator picked up debris on a grassy field behind what was left
of a former paint manufacturing plant, men in hard hats, boots, and T-shirts
with law enforcement logos searched for evidence in Camden's Waterfront
was deja vu for area fire investigators and Camden residents. The fourth
major vacant warehouse fire within a month brought back arson teams and law
enforcement personnel from the city, county, and state levels.
not fun anymore. It's actually disrespectful," Camden Fire Chief
Michael Harper said of the rash of fires that has taken a toll on his
evening's two-alarm blaze was reported about 9:30 at the old Clement
Coverall Co. plant at Sixth Street and Carl Miller Boulevard. No injuries
from the Newark field office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
Firearms and Explosives (ATF), along with the state Arson Unit and fire
marshal, are trying to find the cause of the Clement warehouse fire as well
as determine whether the four fires are connected, Harper said.
mechanism used to start these fires is the focus now, Harper said, because
that could lead investigators to determine whether the same person or group
of people is behind the warehouse fires.
we have not gotten there yet," Harper said.
first two fires - a 12-alarm blaze June 9 that started in a former
tire-distribution center near the city's Parkside section and an eight-alarm
fire June 11 that gutted a former garment factory in the Waterfront South
neighborhood - remain under investigation.
first fire damaged 23 buildings, 10 of them occupied. More than half of the
buildings were severely damaged, and 16 families lost their homes.
third large warehouse fire, June 20 at a former detergent plant in East
Camden, was ruled arson after the ATF sent in a specialized team to help
Camden officials comb through any possible evidence.
team spent four days on the scene before confirming that the Concord
Chemical Co. fire at 17th and Federal Streets was set. No arrests have been
June 23, firefighters battled a one-alarm fire in a warehouse on Magnolia
Avenue in Parkside.
suspects the heightened awareness of the previous warehouse fires led to a
quicker alert, allowing firefighters to control this fire faster.
such large fires require a lot of manpower and resources to extinguish,
assisting suburban fire companies, which are mostly volunteer, have also
been affected by the calls. And the summer heat does not help the situation,
said Robert Mortka, president of the Camden County Fire Chiefs Association.
guys get beat down very easily," Mortka said.
at vacant buildings can be very dangerous because their structure is usually
in such bad shape that walls and roofs can come down easily during a fire,
upper floor of the two-story brick building collapsed during Tuesday's fire.
Two firefighters rushed out of the building moments before the collapse,
state Department of Environmental Protection had the Clement building, which
closed in 1996, listed in its site-remediation program. It was not clear
Wednesday afternoon whether any cleanup had been done.
in 1926, Clement Coverall manufactured solvent- and water-based industrial
paints and varnishes, according to the state website. Previous businesses
included a hosiery factory (1891-1906) and leather tanning operation
(1906-26), the DEP said.
site is about six blocks from the June 11 fire at Winslow and Fourth
Camden has many vacant warehouses, this cluster of fire calls is rare,
get them from time to time, but to get them all in such a short amount of
time is unusual," Harper said.
suburban departments that have been assisting Camden for several years with
difficult fires also have noticed the difference with these recent fires.
a specific problem here," Mortka said. "These fires aren't
starting by themselves."
The ATF has offered a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the June 20 East Camden fire.
|Camden Courier-Post * July 7, 2011|
Arrest Suspect In Latest Camden Blaze
police have arrested a homeless woman for allegedly starting Tuesday night's
two-alarm blaze at an abandoned warehouse in South Camden.
Authorities confirmed this morning that police charged Tammy Schipp on Wednesday evening with lighting the fire. Schipp is not believed to be connected to three previous multi-alarm fires at similar vacant warehouses throughout the city.
Schipp had been living with her boyfriend in the warehouse at 6th Street and Carl Miller Boulevard. Prosecutor's spokesman Jason Laughlin said Schipp allegedly lit a mattress on fire inside the building Tuesday night during a dispute with her boyfriend, sparking the blaze.
Schipp is charged with aggravated arson.
|Philadelphia Daily News * July 8, 2011|
Authorities: Squabble led to Tuesday fire in Camden
flames and thick smoke that Camden firefighters fought to contain in an
abandoned warehouse Tuesday night began with a lit cigarette and papers
stuffed beneath a mattress after a lovers' squabble, prosecutors said
argument between squatters in the abandoned factory on 6th Street near Carl
Miller Boulevard led Tami Shipp, 35, to set the fire about 10 p.m. that
destroyed the building, said Jason Laughlin, spokesman for the Camden County
allegedly using the cigarette to ignite the papers, Shipp left the abandoned
building without telling her boyfriend about the blaze, which soon engulfed
the mattress and eventually the entire building, prosecutors said. No one was
faces charges of aggravated arson and was being held in the Camden County Jail
on $100,000 bail.
fire is not connected to any other blazes that have torn through the city's
abandoned warehouses in recent weeks, Laughlin said. Officials are still
investigating three suspicious fires that destroyed abandoned buildings last
month to determine whether they were connected.
June 19 blaze that destroyed a shuttered chemical plant has been ruled an
are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and
conviction of suspects responsible for the fires.
Anyone with information on the arsonist is encouraged to call the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at 1-888-ATF-FIRE.
|Philadelphia Inquirer * July 8, 2011|
charged with setting Camden warehouse fire
female squatter set fire to a vacant Camden warehouse Tuesday night
following a lovers' quarrel, according to authorities. But officials do not
believe she played a role in other recent warehouse fires in the city.
Shipp, 35, was charged Wednesday evening with aggravated arson in connection
with the two-alarm blaze at a former paint manufacturing plant at Sixth Street
and Carl Miller Boulevard in Camden's Waterfront South section.
who had set up living quarters at the warehouse -- vacant since 1996, when
Clement Coverall Co. stopped operating –– is accused of using a lit
cigarette to ignite paper under a mattress following a dispute with her
boyfriend, who was present at the time.
Shipp nor the boyfriend was injured in the fast-moving fire.
do not believe Shipp is connected to last month's string of warehouse fires,
which remain under investigation by local and state law enforcement agencies
and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
motive here was a kind of revenge on her lover," said Camden Police Chief
is being held at the Camden County Correctional Facility on $126,500 bail.
first two warehouse fires were a 12-alarm blaze on June 9 that started in a
former tire-distribution center near the city's Parkside section and an
eight-alarm fire on June 11 that gutted a former garment factory in Waterfront
June 9 fire damaged 23 buildings, 10 of them occupied. More than half of the
buildings were severely damaged, and 16 families lost their homes.
third multi-alarm warehouse fire, on June 19 at a former detergent plant in
East Camden, has been ruled arson by the ATF, which sent a team to assist
Camden officials in combing through evidence. No arrests have been made.
of the suspicious nature of the fires, local, state, and federal agents have
created an Arson Task Force. Six Camden police detectives are on the team.
Tuesday's fire, which was reported about 10 p.m., officers canvassed the
neighborhood and received tips that Shipp lived in the building.
who was known to police for previous drug- and prostitution-related offenses,
was apprehended Wednesday in an alley near the 1700 block of Broadway. She was
charged with arson in connection with the fire and charged with aggravated
assault for an unrelated July 2 incident in which she allegedly cut a woman's
face with a box cutter behind an abandoned home at 518 Carl Miller Boulevard.
She faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted of arson.
at least one arsonist remains at large, Camden Fire Chief Michael Harper said
it was good to get "some closure" on one of the warehouse fires.
provides a bit of a sense of relief," said Helene Pierson, executive
director of Heart of Camden, a nonprofit group involved in redevelopment of
Waterfront South. After Tuesday's fire there was "greater concern"
in the neighborhood, which has at least one other large, vacant warehouse,
The ATF has offered a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the East Camden fire. Anyone with information is asked to call a hotline at 1-888-283-3473.
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