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 extra hours.

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 hour later.

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 section.

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 multiple dwelling.

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 heat.

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 Brooklyn.

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.