9 displaced by Brown St. fire

NUTLEY –

A fire at a multi-family residence at 12 Brown St. broke out in the early morning hours last Tuesday, forcing its occupants to scramble out of bed and into the cold.

Some 35 firefighters from Nutley, Bloomfield and Montclair overcame frozen hydrants and freezing temperatures to beat down the two-alarm blaze, just down the block from Lincoln School, said Nutley Fire Lt. Dave Hollywood.

An alarm of fire came in at 3:18 a.m. and as the first Nutley FD units responded, right away, Fire HQ alerted members of the DPW – who had been on duty in the aftermath of the snowstorm – so that the fire rigs would have a clear path to the scene, Hollywood said.

“So by the time we got there, Public Works had the street plowed for us,” he said.

Hollywood said that when the first units arrived at the three-story frame structure, “the fire was blowing out from the second floor, toward the side of the building facing Jefferson St. – the fire had blown out the windows. You could also see the fire from the front of the building.”

When firefighters hooked up their hoses to the nearest hydrant, they found it to be frozen, Hollywood said, so “they went to another one that was working” and connected there, then trained their water attack on the building.

By that time, he said, the fire had traveled up to the third floor behind the knee walls. The heat was so intense that flames melted the siding of the house next door, he said.

Otherwise, the fire was largely confined to 12 Brown St., thanks to the efforts of firefighters aboard Nutley FD Engines 1, 2, 3 and 4 and personnel on Montclair FD Ladder 1 and Bloomfield FD Engine 3, and the fire was brought under control by about 4:45 a.m., Hollywood said.

Members of the Newark FD Cascade Unit responded to fill firefighters’ air tanks, he said, and that department’s Bell & Siren Club furnished refreshments to firefighters.

The building’s second floor front apartment suffered heavy burn damage, the third floor was inundated by fire and water, while the first floor had mostly water and smoke, said Hollywood. As of last week, the building had been declared uninhabitable by the township construction code officer, he added.

Cause of the fire was listed as undetermined.

No injuries to civilians or firefighters were reported. One of the occupants was transported to Clara Maass Medical Center, Belleville, to replace the medications she lost in the fire, he said.

“All in all, things went pretty smoothly, especially for the conditions we faced,” Hollywood said.

Nutley Public Affairs Commissioner Steven Rogers said his department opened its offices to provide temporary shelter to the fire victims. Of the nine adults evacuated, four remained in the Public Affairs offices until other accommodations were found for them, Rogers said. Others were taken in by relatives, he said.

Rogers thanked employees from all township departments for stepping up to offer help in the emergency.

Hollywood said Mayor/ Public Safety Commissioner Alphonse Petracco called Fire HQ “to make sure everyone was okay” and later in the day, stopped by to follow up.

– Ron Leir 

The Observer Staff