High Fire Activity - 4/27/99 & 4/29/99
At 1116 hours of the 27th, a fire alarm box activation sent 2 + 2 to Hylan Boulevard & Bay Terrace. A large area of brush was afire. A brisk wind stoked the fire faster than it could be contained, but fortunately it was away from any structures.
As Staten Island companies were busy fighting or responding to this fire, units from Brooklyn were called quickly to fill the vacant firehouses. Under the best traffic conditions it takes about 20 minutes for enough companies to respond over the Verrazano Bridge to bolster the Island's fire protection. But 15 minutes into the fire, the Red Devil struck again.
The Red Devil broke for a late breakfast but came back with a vengeance at 1103 hours.
Within 32 minutes there was a 3rd alarm assignment responding to the box. Once again Brooklyn units screamed over the Verrazano Bridge to refill the vacant firehouses. Fire was into a 500-foot square area of baled paper, stacked 50 feet high. (The equivalent of a 5 story building half a city block long.)
It wasn't long before a 4th alarm and numerous special calls for trucks were transmitted. Many of those relocated Brooklyn units responded on the 4th alarm. As more and more units from Brooklyn were called upon to relocate to the island, Brooklyn had to pull units from Manhattan and Queens to fill up it's emptying firehouses.
Manhattan and Queens units eventually operated at the rapidly burning mound of paper. Plumes of smoke and flaming embers rose high into the air and could be seen for miles. Some of the embers made their way across the Arthur Kill waterway and set fire to a pier in Carteret New Jersey.
To put it into perspective: Staten Island's normal compliment of companies is 17 engines, 12 ladders, and 3 battalions. With the 3rd & 4th alarm ongoing simultaneously, 28 engines, 14 ladders and 8 battalions were operating. Most of them were from Brooklyn.
When fire fighters arrived they discovered fire in 3 cargo holds; each filled with cocoa beans. This fire was labor-intensive. As units flooded the holds trying to extinguish the fire, the de-watering unit was trying to sump the hold so the ship's crew could move the cargo around to assist in overhauling.
Rescue 2 made full use of their thermal-imaging camera through the night to find hidden hot spots. The fire didn't go under control until 0138 hours the next morning.
At 1800 hours the night tour went on duty (That is assuming the apparatus had made it back to quarters.) and the day tour units started licking their wounds. Slowly, units were making headway on the Staten Island 4th and Brooklyn boat fire. The Devil had been tamed. But hell hath no fury like a Red Devil scorned.
At 1821 hours fire was reported in a 5 story brick 150x50 multiple dwelling at 1046 Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side. Engine 22 gave us that startling announcement 4 minutes later. My day tour counterpart walked to the fire building and later described the scene.
The fire was on the top 2 floors and spread to the top floor and roof of exposure 3 (exposure to the rear). The 3rd alarm was transmitted at 1835 hours, the 4th at 1845. All of a sudden I had a major coverage problem.
With nary a unit available from 59th Street to 125th Street an apparatus staging area was set up at the quarters of engine 53 on 3rd Avenue & 103 Street. Somehow, Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn managed to scrap together some units to send to me. We told the responding units to rendezvous at engine 53 while we decided to where they should relocate. We held some in reserve just in case the IC wanted a 5th alarm.
At 1938 hours the fire was "probably will hold" and our coverage was starting to shape up. We had units scattered all over the city. Brooklyn units operating in and relocated into Staten Island. Manhattan units relocated to Brooklyn, then operating on Staten Island. Queens units relocated to Brooklyn. Bronx units relocated to Queens then operated in Manhattan. Many of them still had day tour members on board.
By 2300 hours the last relocator left the borough and things were getting back to some semblance of normal. I'm glad, however, that I don't have to pay the overtime bill.