Friday fire destroys Lyndhurst dental office


A rapidly moving fire ravaged a two-and-a-half-story building on Stuyvesant Ave. in Lyndhurst during Easter weekend.

Paul Haggerty, chief of the Lyndhurst Volunteer Fire Department, said the fire was reported initially by a passerby calling on a cellular phone at 4:35 p.m. Friday, followed by “a flood of calls” from neighbors.

Shortly afterward, the first responding Lyndhurst fire units arrived to find “heavy fire coming from the storefront dental office” of 217 Stuyvesant, between Tontine and Court Aves., with the flames “blowing out on to the street.”

And those flames soon engulfed a vehicle parked in front of the building, he said.

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Haggerty said the fire quickly spread into the cockloft at the top of the century-old building — so fast, he added, that, “We weren’t given a fighting chance from the get-go” to make a good attack to contain the blaze.

Soon after arriving at the scene and realizing the seriousness of the situation, a second alarm was called in, Haggerty said, which brought in additional fire crews from North Arlington, Rutherford, East Rutherford and Carlstadt, accounting for a total of 55 personnel, the chief estimated.

Rutherford and Nutley fire units stood by at Lyndhurst firehouses.

“We spent two hours chasing the fire in the cockloft, which was four feet in height, encapsulated in a tin ceiling plus two other layers which made it very resistant to our getting to the fire,” the chief said.

At the time of the fire, neither the Lyndhurst Dental Center, operated by Dr. Ozra F. Modarres, nor the two apartments above, were occupied — but police officers at the scene early on were credited with rescuing a pit bull found in a cage, just inside the entrance to one of the second-floor units, according to Haggerty.

No injuries were reported, although the chief said there was a close call when a ceiling was being pulled down and “the fire flashed,” covering two firefighters — one from Lyndhurst and the other from East Rutherford — in debris [see photo].

“They were shaken up but not burned,” Haggerty said.

EMTs from a Moonachie Fire Department Rescue Unit treated them at the scene.

By about 6:15 p.m., the fire — which had gone to three alarms — was declared under control and on Saturday, because of the extent of the damage, the building was torn down, the chief said.

Haggerty said firefighters managed to prevent the fire from spreading to the adjacent one-story building to the north housing a dry cleaner.

Fire investigators concluded the blaze was triggered by a malfunctioning electrical appliance in the dental office, possibly a transformer for a neon sign and/or a water cooler device, both close to the fire’s point of ignition, the chief said.

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