JULY 9, 2002
Haines Building, Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, City of Trenton
the morning of Tuesday, July 9, 2002, members of Lawrence Road Fire
Co. were called mutual aid into the City of Trenton to the scene of
a general alarm fire that burned away most of the roof of a large
administrative building located on the grounds of Trenton Psychiatric
Hospital an historic mental health institution that was one
of the first of its kind in the history of the United States.
fire, which was accidentally started by a roofing contractor, resulted
in a massive response to the fireground of an estimated 200-plus career
and volunteer firefighters manning 23 engines (including four equipped
with elevating booms), four ladders, one rescue, two canteens, and
numerous support units, along with the relocation of even more apparatus
and manpower for cover-up purposes.
in 1848 and presently operated by the State of New Jerseys Department
of Human Services, the hospital lies on about 100 acres within both
Trenton and neighboring Ewing Township.
state-employed fire official with the title assistant fire chief
is all that remains now at the hospital, with fire protection the
primary responsibility of the Trenton Fire Department.
in the 19th century as one of the hospitals original structures,
the Haines Building was constructed primarily of concrete and stone,
with a timber-framed roof. The building housed offices, an art studio
and a nondenominational chapel. Because of the early hour, very few
of the hospitals 400-plus patients and approximately 1,000 staff
were inside when the fire broke out.
was just after 7:54 a.m. when operators in Trentons police and
fire communications center received a telephone call reporting a fire
alarm system activation at the hospital. That call was immediately
updated with a report of smoke coming from the Haines Building.
7:56 a.m., the communications center transmitted a full first alarm,
which sent Engine 8, Engine 1, Engine 9, Ladder 1, Rescue 1, and Battalion
Chief Chester Haymond (Battalion 3).
7:59 a.m., Arlie Kellar Jr. (TPH 1, the hospitals fire official)
radioed over Trentons main fireground channel that smoke was
issuing from the roof of the Haines Building.
first-due company, Engine 8, arrived on scene at 8:01 a.m. and its
captain, John Bradbury, confirmed Kellars report, advising there
was heavy smoke showing from the roof of a large three-story structure.
Bradbury recommended to Haymond that a second alarm be struck.
8:03 a.m., the second alarm was transmitted. Engine 10, Ladder 4 and
Battalion Chief Mark Rosen (Battalion 4) responded. Also rolling on
the second alarm were Special Services 1 (cascade), Deputy Chief Richard
Snyder (Deputy 2), and several other command officers to help coordinate
fireground safety and water supply.
8:07 a.m., after he had a few minutes to fully size up the situation,
Bradbury radioed that the roof of the Haines Building was heavily-involved
with a fire that was spreading rapidly.
third alarm which sent Engine 3 and Engine 6 to the scene
was ordered by Snyder at 8:15 a.m. Snyder also special-called all
three volunteer fire companies from Ewing Township.
radio room relayed the mutual aid request to Mercer County Central
Communications Center, which at 8:18 a.m. dispatched volunteers from
the Prospect Heights, Pennington Road and West Trenton fire companies.
They responded with Squirt 31, Telesquirt 32, Engine 32-1 and Ladder
8:29 a.m., Snyder ordered the communications center to transmit a
general alarm, with a full recall of off-duty city firefighters. In
his report to the radio room, Snyder advised that the roof of the
Haines Building was almost fully-involved and that the fire was extremely
10 engines with large diameter hose responded to the scene. They included:
Engine 21-1 (Slackwood Fire Co.) and Engine 22 (Lawrence Road Fire
Co.) from Lawrence Township; Engine 12-1 (Mercerville Fire Co.), Engine
13-2 (Rusling Hose Co.), Engine 14-1 (Hamilton Fire Co.), Engine 14-2
(Enterprise Fire Co.), Engine 15 (DeCou Hose Co.), and Engine 18-1
(Colonial Fire Co.), all from Hamilton Township; Engine 42 (East Windsor
Fire Co. #1) from East Windsor Township; and Engine 52 (Hopewell Fire
Co.) from Hopewell Borough.
22 and Engine 21-1 were both dispatched at 8:30 a.m. Engine 22 signed
on radio at 8:32 a.m. with Ff. Michael Ratcliffe in command, Ff. Charles
Commini driving, and a crew of Ff. Larry Forker and Ff. Joseph Dlabik
Jr. Engine 22 arrived at the staging area on Sullivan Way at 8:42
7 also was eventually called to the fireground, leaving Ladder 2 as
the only front-line Trenton apparatus not operating at the hospital.
(Ladder 2, at Snyders direction, was kept in service to help
cover the city.)
recalled Trenton firefighters reported for duty (including a group
of about two dozen men who had gathered at fire headquarters with
plans to attend the funeral of a firefighter killed in the line of
duty in Gloucester City on July 4th), they manned several reserve
pieces of apparatus, as well as the apparatus formerly used by Engines
2 and 5 and Ladder 3 the three companies permanently disbanded
by the city in the June reorganization.
responding to the fireground with recalled personnel were Reserve
Engine 2, Reserve Engine 3, Reserve Engine 9, and Disbanded Ladder
vehicles, including a New Jersey Transit bus commandeered by Battalion
Chief Jeffrey Gore (Battalion 2), were utilized to ferry manpower
from city firehouses to the scene.
Engine 2 and Disbanded Engine 5 were also manned by recalled members
and relocated to cover Trenton, along with Ladder 2 and various mutual
aid apparatus called into the city from other volunteer fire companies
from both Mercer County and Burlington County.
of the large number of Mercer Countys volunteer fire companies
involved at the fireground and committed to covering the capital city,
a task force of apparatus and manpower from Burlington County was
relocated to Mercer Countys fire academy in Lawrence to stand
by in a central location for possible deployment if needed anywhere
in the county.
Firefighting at the Haines Building was a predominately defensive operation.
at various points around the fire building were Ladder 1, Ladder 4,
Disbanded Ladder 3, Engine 1 (a squirt), Engine 3 (a squirt), Squirt
31, Telesquirt 32, and Ladder Tower 33. Aerial master streams from
several of those units were placed in service.
hoselines were also hauled up ground ladders and put to work from
uninvolved sections of the Haines Buildings roof and from the
roofs of adjacent structures.
water for the various master streams and hoselines were a number of
limited volume yard hydrants and at least four long 5-inch hose relays,
utilizing many of the mutual aid engines, from large volume hydrants
located along both Sullivan Way and Stuyvesant Avenue.
after arriving at the staging area, Engine 22 was given orders and
connected to a hydrant on Sullivan Way near the main entrance to the
hospital grounds. After hooking up to the hydrant, Engine 22 started
pumping water through a 5-inch hoseline (laid by Slackwood firefighters)
to Engine 21-1, which in turn fed Engine 10.
this supply line was fully established, Ratcliffe, Forker and Dlabik
walked up to the fire building, while Commini remained with Engine
22 at the pump panel. After meeting up with Trenton Battalion Chief
(and Lawrence Road Deputy Chief) Richard Farletta, Engine 22s
crew helped Trenton firefighters haul hose into the fire building.
Three hundred feet of 4-inch hose was hand-stretched from Engine 10
into a wing of the Haines Building and connected to 200 feet of 3-inch
hose that was then hauled up a stairwell to the fourth floor. The
3-inch line was gated down into two 1.75-inch hoselines that were
then used to keep the fire from extending into an unburned area of
the roof. The operation was particularly tiring and difficult, but
it ultimately proved successful in holding the fire.
least six Trenton firefighters were transported to city hospitals
to be checked out or treated for different injuries, including heat
exhaustion, muscle strain and chest pain. Fortunately, all firefighters
were quickly released from the hospitals and fully recovered.
10:19 a.m., Deputy Chief Stephen Benner (Deputy 1), who had assumed
command, declared the fire under control. But firefighters continued
to flow water on the roof and overhaul the ruins for several more
aid units were first to be released, starting shortly before noon.
The engines from Lawrence Road and Slackwood were the last mutual
aid units to remain on scene. They left at 1:30 p.m. (Engine 22 was
back in quarters at Station 22 by 1:41 p.m.) Engine 8, the last Trenton
company to take up, cleared the scene at 2:35 p.m.