A bridge too hot

By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 


If it’s true that bad things happen in threes, then Kearny’s bridges should be safe from fires for awhile. That is, at least the bridges in South Kearny.

Last week, a blaze on the PATH span over the Hackensack River required an all-hands response by the Kearny Fire Department and forced suspension of train service between Newark and Journal Square.

It was the third bridge fire in South Kearny in less than a month.

Kearny Fire Chief Steve Dyl said the alarm was called in at 2:57 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 2, and the blaze was out by 5:29 p.m. But during those hours, all KFD companies responded to the scene, where they were assisted by the Jersey City FD fireboat. Kearny’s boat, which had been vital in quenching an August fire at the Pulaski Skyway, was down for maintenance, the chief explained.

The cause of the PATH fire was believed to have been electrical. Dyl said railroad ties, supports and a signal box were burnt.

As luck would have it, after a mild summer, Sept. 2 brought temperatures in the 90s, but the none of the firefighters required treatment for heat exhaustion, Dyl said. Neither were there any injuries.

PATH service, suspended for several hours, resumed at about 6 p.m., but there were residual delays well into the evening. T

here were also major vehicular traffic delays, primarily due to Fish House Road’s being closed until 7 p.m.

While the KFD was battling the blaze, the Jersey City Fire Department covered South Kearny, and North Arlington and Harrison covered the rest of the town.

On Aug. 15, sparks from a welder’s torch being used in the Pulaski Skyway rehab project apparently ignited wooden support-column fenders under a portion of the highway over the Hackensack.

Billows of smoke from the 1:05 p.m. blaze were visible for miles, but damage was reportedly limited to the fenders, which protect the support columns from boat traffic on the river.

Instrumental in fighting those flames was the KFD’s boat, Marine 3, which received its baptism by fire. On this, its maiden fire call, the Kearny boat was the first to arrive at the scene, and its seven-man crew proceeded to pump about 1,250 gallons of water per minute on the blaze until it was declared under control about an hour later.

Also responding were boats from the Newark FD and the N.J. State Police.

“The only way we could’ve fought this fire was from the water,” KFD Deputy Chief Joseph Viscuso told Observer correspondent Ron Leir. “You couldn’t do it from the land.”

On Aug. 4, the 98-yearold Portal Bridge over the Hackensack caught fire, disrupting Amtrak and N.J. Transit service for hours. When the trains began running again, they reportedly were forced to 5 mph crawl over the span. The cause of that fire is undetermined, but it was believed to be electrical.

Dyl said that Amtrak is investigating.

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