Nearly full day spent quelling marsh fire


Firefighters last week spent nearly 24 hours in the marshes behind Gunnell Oval, combating a stubborn brush fire and then remaining on site until there was no longer a danger of flare-ups.

Kearny Fire Chief Steve Dyl said the initial report came in at 1:49 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26, and the blaze was declared under control by 6:34 p.m.

However, the last KFD crew did not leave the scene until 12:52 p.m. Thursday.

Despite some news reports, the blaze was not at the Oval itself, but in the meadows that border the Schuyler Ave. recreational complex. Dyl estimated that about four marshland acres south of the old Midland Ave. railroad cut were burnt, flames fed by the bone-dry phragmites covering the area.

“It was landfill,” the chief noted, “so a lot of the area kept smoldering.”

At the height of the blaze, more than 40 firefighters, including all KFD units along with crews from Belleville, Harrison, North Arlington and Jersey City, were at the scene. The Bayonne and North Hudson fire departments provided coverage for the town while the KFD was in the meadows.

“Access (through the marshes) was difficult,” Dyl said. But a bigger challenge was “preventing the flames from spreading to residences on E. Midland Ave. and the industrial area on the Belleville Pike.”

“We were able to get into the marsh through the Oval,” Dyl noted, “but we had to stretch hoses all the way up to Schuyler and from Barszcewski St. off the Pike,” a distance of about 1,000 feet.

The heat of the day, the dry conditions and a steady, if not strong, wind complicated matters, as did the need to navigate “through a lot of water” in the marsh.

Dyl cited the work done by all the crews in containing the fire: “They did a real good job in keeping it away from the businesses on the Pike and from homes.”

No injuries were reported, and the Oval was not damaged.

The cause of the blaze is undetermined.

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