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Fire Destroys Washington Place Home

On the evening of December 11, 2009, several 911 calls were made to dispatch reporting a fire on Washington Place, near Terrace Avenue.

At 21:32, the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department was dispatched to a working fire consuming the front porch, with heavy smoke throughout the structure.

Coincidently, while driving by, off-duty Detective Sergeant Joseph Rinke noticed the fire, and putting himself at risk, alerted the occupants and escorted them out the rear door. Rinke suffered minor smoke inhalation and was transported to HUMC.

First Assistant Chief Kevin Todd, first on the scene within three minutes of the alarm, confirmed a working fire that was engulfing the porch and traveling to the second and third floors.

Fire Chief Michael Ratkowski arrived moments later, assumed overall command and Todd assumed operations.

A F.A.S.T. Team and Engine Company from Carlstadt and a Tower Ladder from Little Ferry were immediately called to the scene and arrived moments later.

Wallington Engine Company and Lodi Tower Ladder arrived at the scene with manpower. (Extra manpower needed due to the 270 temperature.)

A 3rd alarm stood by at HHFD Headquarters.

Heights Engine 2 approached from Burton Avenue, connected to a hydrant with a 5" supply line, advanced to the front of the structure and a team began an interior attack with two 2" hand lines -- one on the porch and on the first floor.

Ex-Chief Tony Greco coordinated field communications from the Rescue Truck.

Heights Ladder entered the structure and started to open up interior walls and ceilings on the first floor.

Due to the heavy volume of fire, Engine 1 connects a 5" supply line at Terrace Avenue and approaches.

Two 2-inch hand lines were stretched to the second floor.

Little Ferry Tower set up for a roof vent. Manpower from Little Ferry Ladder assisted Heights Ladder in putting up ground ladders.

Manpower from Carlstadt Engine 701 assisted with opening up walls and ceilings on the second floor.

About four 2" hand lines were actively attacking the blaze inside.

After the initial porch fire was extinguished, firefighters did an aggressive interior attack. The fire was rapidly spreading through the walls and extended to all three floors due to the balloon frame construction.

Because of the wind and extreme heat, firefighters used hand lines to protect the exposures of the adjoining homes and investigated the interiors with thermal imaging cameras.

Due to heavy fire conditions and ceiling collapses on the second and third floors, Chief Ratkowski sounded the evacuation tones and began an exterior attack.

Firefighters went into a master stream attack from both Heights Ladder and Little Ferry Tower positioned on Washington Place.

After the heavy fire was knocked down, firefighters went in for another interior attack, and overhauled any remaining hot spots.

Engine companies from Lodi and Moonachie that were standing by at HQ were called to the scene for manpower.

At about 22:45, a fire officer complained of dizziness and chest discomfort and was transported to HUMC.

Due to icy conditions, the HH DPW was called in to salt the area about midnight.

The fire was under control about midnight and firefighters fought persistent hot spots on the first and second floors.

The front porch collapsed at 01:00 with no injuries. Mutual aid companies were released.

Heights returned to HQ at about 01:30 and spent about 45 minutes repacking hoses, cleaning tools and refilling air tanks. Although released from the scene, Moonachie FD assisted. Also, the Moonachie EMS Squad stayed at HQ and checked out every firefighter.

The 100+ year old home sustained significant damage and was declared uninhabitable. Public Service shut off all utilities.

About 75 volunteer firefighters from Carlstadt, East Rutherford, Garfield, Little Ferry, Lodi and Moonachie, Wallington and Box 54 assisted the HHFD.

About 25 EMS from Carlstadt, Heights, Lodi and Moonachie worked the scene. South Bergen Zone 2 Coordinator Mark Tomko coordinated mutual aid support.

Hackensack Mask Service Unit provided air tank refills.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by Heights fire officials, but not considered suspicious. Smoke detectors were operational. ###  [Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department]

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