8 Alarms, 3 Buildings, and a Chicken

Maybe it was the pleasant weather that was the impetus. Maybe it was just lack of common sense. I'm pretty sure that " . . . A chicken in every pot" was never meant to include leaving the house while it cooked.

66-88-1639 Saturday September 26, 1999
We received the call at 1137 hours reporting a smoke condition in 535 West 149 Street in the Hamilton Grange section of upper Manhattan. When engine 80 arrived 4 minutes later the first floor of the 4 story 20 x 50 brownstone was aflame. A very well done chicken lie at the center of the blaze.

A hose line was in place and operating by 1145 hours with a second line in the process of being stretched. But as they advanced the line into the fire building, the Red Devil made his intentions clear. This building was his.

The aging timbers of the pre-war building acted like a candle wick. By 1156 hours fire had consumed the top floor of the building, flames began spreading outward to exposures 2 & 4 and the chief requested a second alarm.

Eight minutes later, 1 tower ladder was pouring water into the fire building from above while hand lines operated in the basement and on the first floor. In exposure 2, a vacant dwelling, the battle continued with handlines and fire fighters were making headway in exposure 4, a 7 story H-type 100 x 150 multiple dwelling. Or so they thought.

At 1241 hours, with 4 alarms now operating, the fire fighters made a concerted effort to save exposure 4. They repositioned the rigs and went to work but the situation only deteriorated further. We transmitted the fifth alarm at 1255 hours, and the sixth at 1327.

Fire now was on the second through seventh floors and through the roof in the "B" wing, not as bad in the "A" wing. The Red Devil continued on his merry way through the seventh and eighth alarms at 1404 hours. Thick brown smoke from the fire rose high into the air and could be seen from the New Jersey shore and central Bronx.

With 33 engines, 22 ladders, 10 battalions, and a host of special units operating at the fire the Recuperation and Care unit (RA01) depleted it's supply of replenishing liquids. Rac unit 4 came to carry on the task of keeping the fire fighters hydrated.

Finally, at 1459 hours, they knocked the fire down enough to declare it probably will hold. Seventeen minutes later they gave the under control signal. Over 4 dozen people were left homeless.

The most serious injury sustained was to the lieutenant of ladder 45. He passed out from smoke inhalation. Paramedics from FDNY/EMS quickly went to work and took him to the hyperbaric unit at Jacobi Hospital in The Bronx.