A Busy Devil Day
Saturday March 29, 1998 was a busy day in the big city. A
mini-heat wave was working it's way into the city as mid-day
temperatures rose into the low 80's. The sun worshipers were
enjoying the rays but the Red Devil decided to put in some
He began in the Melrose section of the Bronx. At 0749 hours
the Bronx Central Office received a report of fire at 897
Eagle Avenue; a vacant multiple dwelling. Upon arrival fire
was on the third floor of the 4 story brick 20 x 70
structure extending to the fourth floor. The fire quickly
went to three alarms before it was brought under control an
While that fire was still in it's infancy, Queens tapped in
next with an all-hands fire at 85-55 115 Street in the
Richmond Hill section. The fire started around 0758 hours on
the top floor of the 4 story brick 80 x 80 multiple dwelling
and extended into the cockloft. An elder woman on oxygen was
removed uninjured from the building.
Manhattan was next with an all-hands fire in the shadows of
the Manhattan Bridge. At 1352 hours fire gutted a first
floor store of a 3 story brick 25 x 75 multiple dwelling.
The Devil went back to The Bronx at 1440 hours for a quick
all-hands in a 1 story frame 25 x 25 vacant garage. The
building address is 3357 Olinville Avenue in the Olinville
At 1456 hours another quick all-hands this time in the
Ridgewood section of Brooklyn. The fire was on the second
floor of 209 Gardner Avenue; a 4 story brick 125 x 50
Staying in Brooklyn, the Devil moved on to the Sunset Park
section. At 1604 hours another all-hands fire started at 944
42 Street; a 4 story brick 100 x 75 multiple dwelling. Fire
claimed the third floor of that building.
The first fifth alarm of the year goes to Staten Island and
is also the first major brush fire of the year. Great Kills
Park is a huge expanse of undeveloped land surrounding Great
Kills Harbor. The land falls under the jurisdiction of the
Gateway National Recreation Area. Although the land is
managed by the Federal Government the city provides police
and fire protection and is reimbursed for services. The feds
are going to pay though the nose for this one.
A total of 49 pieces of apparatus fought the fire for over 2
hours beginning with the pull of a street box at 1629 hours.
Several homes in the Oakwood section were threatened by the
blaze but a separate assignment was dispatched to protect
them. The smoke from the fire was so thick that it obscured
visibility on the Driscol Bridge in New Jersey;
approximately 20 kilometers southwest.
The fire was contained after the transmission of the fourth
alarm. At 1829 hours the two incidents were combined into
one to make a fifth alarm fire. Due to the large number of
units operating or relocated in Brooklyn and Staten Island,
a dispatch protocol called Fallback was initiated.
Under this protocol reports of structural fires are
responded to by only 1 engine, 1 ladder and a chief. No
roster staffed engines, or any further units are assigned
unless: a second source is received; a signal for a working
fire is given; a unit is under staffed. This is a very
drastic policy but it is necessary in order to maintain
adequate levels of coverage for the surrounding areas.
Brooklyn, already strained for units, was next to feel the
At 1836 hours fire broke out at 596 Manhattan Avenue in the
Greenpoint section. The fire consumed the top floor of a 4
story frame 40 x 60 multiple dwelling. With a good portion
of Brooklyn units working across the bridge it became
necessary to pull relocators from Manhattan.
At 1903 hours another all-hands fire in The Bronx at Public
School 118 at E 180 Street & Arthur Avenue in the East
Tremont section. The fire was contained to the food storage
area in the 6 story brick 250 x 150 school.
Then, at 1925 hours, another fire broke out at 3268 Hull
Avenue in the Norwood section. The fire claimed the basement
and first floor of the 3 story brick 20 x 60 multiple
dwelling, and required a second alarm to control.
With the 2 above fires ongoing simultaneously Bronx was
forced to pull relocators from northern Queens and
Manhattan. Manhattan was starting to get thinned out, but
it would be some time before they saw another fire. Queens,
however, was about to get pinched.
The Edgemere section of Queens is tucked into the eastern
half of the Rockaway Peninsula. It is closer to Nassau
County than to mainland Queens. Because of it's remoteness,
most of the firehouses must be relocated into if the
company will be operating for an extended period.
At 2154 hours an all-hands fire broke out at 459 Beach 38
Street; a 2.5 story frame 20 x 40 vacant bungalow. This
required more relocators from central Queens and southern
The last fire in the 24 hour period was at 278 Mott Street.
A stone's throw from The Bowery in lower Manhattan. Fire was
on the third floor of a 5 story 25 x 75 multiple dwelling.
There is a buff organization in NYC called The Bell Club.
They issue a monthly newsletter. In it, they usually state
greater alarm statistics compared to the same period a year
prior. The last issue showed that this year there were half
the number of fires as compared to last year.
A few more days like this one and we should be able to make
up for that drop.