A long day in Bayonne Three-alarm fire injures three and leaves 13 families homeless

Two firefighters and possibly a resident of 19th Street were injured on April 1 after a fire on West 18th Street roared through a string of attached housing, leaving most of them gutted.

The fire, which left 13 families homeless, is still under investigation, said Fire Director Patrick Boyle.

One firefighter – suffering from heat exhaustion – was admitted to Bayonne Medical Center for treatment, administered fluids and was later released.

“A fire captain also injured his wrist,” Boyle said.

The three alarm fire was reported at 3:23 a.m. on Sunday, April 1, in 39 W. 18th Street. When firefighters arrived on the scene, the fire had spread to two of the attached structures on either side.

Neighbors interviewed for this story said they believed the fire started in the middle and spread out. While Boyle said the investigation of the fire is still being conducted, this seemed to be the case.

The fire gutted four buildings, and a fifth building suffered light fire damage to the exterior and extensive water damage.

“This was a three alarm fire plus,” Boyle said. “We called in extra companies.”

Since the fire is still under investigation, many of the details, such as response time, were not available at press time.

“That information comes off the national fire reports and they won’t be available until the investigation is closed,” Boyle said.

More information, Boyle said, will be released once the investigation is concluded.

On-duty and off-duty Bayonne firefighters responded to the blaze from all over the city. Bayonne also invoked its mutual aid agreement with Jersey City, which brought in additional support.

A total of 80 firefighters were involved in battling the blaze, and the fire was brought under control at about 6:30 a.m. on April 1, but fire crews were kept at the scene until 7 a.m. on Monday.

“We wanted people there in case there were any hot spots,” Boyle said. “It was a very long day.”

Boyle described the fire as the most serious so far this year.

Neighbors said that flames leaped from building to building, creating a wall of smoke that made it difficult to see the buildings at times.

Residents for several blocks gathered across the street from the fire site on Monday morning. The smell of charred wood still lingered in the air, although no smoke showed.

Several residents from a nearby home speculated that it must have been a candle or heater.

The fire apparently spread from house to house through a common façade, a design concern that has drawn the attention of regulators in other cities such as Hoboken, where connected housing is more common than in Bayonne.

Still cordoned off with yellow tape, the site has become something of a local attraction as cars slow to stare at the ruins. While some windows have already been seated with sheets of plywood, others still bear the jagged edge of broken windows.

Sections of the room look like melted plastic, pealed back to reveal the charcoal layer of burned wood beneath. Rain also dripped through gaps in the roofs of several buildings as utility workers scrambled to shut off gas, electrical and telephone services.

Although all residents got out of the homes uninjured, signs of their hurried flight are everywhere, framed paintings on one porch and a lawn chair on another. Below in the driveways, the scorched rugs and other unrecognizable items from inside lay in heaps.

To help the victims, PSE&G has designated its Bayonne customer service center at 608 Broadway as a collection point for food and clothing.

“We are working in conjunction with the American Red Cross,” said Richard Dwyer, PSE&G spokesperson.

email to Al Sullivan


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