By Anthony J. Machcinski


A three-alarm fire forced one family out of its Belleville house on Mother’s Day. The fire took place in a two-story residential building located at 72- 74 Harrison St.

The Fire Department was alerted to the blaze that started around 12:35 p.m. on May 13 when 911 calls were received from area residents reporting smoke coming from the back of the building. When firefighters reached the scene minutes later, they found the fire to have already spread to the second floor.

The intensity of the blaze damaged much of the interior ceilings, causing floors to collapse. Once the building was evacuated, the fi refi ghters regrouped and fought to prevent the fire from spreading to adjacent homes – but not before the flames melted siding on those homes.

Still, residents on both sides of the fire were able to return to their homes within a couple of hours.

Mutual aid from Bloomfield, Nutley, East Orange and Kearny responded to the fire while West Orange and North Arlington fire companies provided coverage at Belleville’s Fire Headquarters.

Firefighters had to tap additional water supplies from mains on Mill St. and the Bloomfield water system due to the low water pressure.

“It’s a common thing that happens when you open that many hydrants in one area,” explained Belleville Fire Lt. Scott Wentworth.

Injuries were limited to one firefighter who sustained a shoulder injury and was treated at a local hospital.

No civilians were reported hurt but as the fire raged, a drama unfolded as one of the occupants worried that her husband might still be inside after her attempts to reach him on his cellular phone went unanswered. Firefighters braved flames and intense heat and searched the second floor for the resident, but were unable to locate him. However, the missing resident turned up at the fire scene several hours later, having left the building earlier in the day. He was apparently unaware of the fire.

Two adults and four children from the second floor apartment were relocated to nearby relatives with the assistance of the American Red Cross. The downstairs apartments of the residence were vacant.

The wood frame structure was declared unsafe for occupancy by the Belleville Building Department due to the severe fire damage. As of last week, the Building Dept. was still researching the building’s ownership.

The fire was declared under control at 4:30 p.m. and was completely extinguished a hour and a half later. As of the Observer’s press time, the cause of the fire was still yet to be determined.

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