December 2009 THE GAZETTE - PAGE 17
140 Firefighters & 64 EMS Work Sara Lee Blaze
At 10:15 hours on Tuesday, October 20, 2009, a call came to Moonachie Police Depart- ment for an alarm at the Sara Lee Coffee and Tea plant on Empire Boulevard.
Assistant Fire Chief Vic- tor A. Migliorino, first on the scene in a Fire Chief vehicle, reported a working fire and established command.
He saw heavy smoke from the rear area of the roof. Sec- onds later he saw a large fire ball shoot an estimated 60 feet from mid-tower with a shower of embers igniting a large area of the roof. He immediately transmits the call for a second alarm to include a F.A.S.T. Team.
Moonachie Engine 803, commanded by Lt. Louis Cap- padonna, arrives, positions on the left side of the building, establishes a water supply and reports heavy smoke and fire in the rear tower.
Moonachie Tower 805, commanded by Captain Frank Smith, raises the ladder and reports to command that the roof condition is heavy fire and smoke from natural vents (part of the regular structure).
Command advises the sec- ond Moonachie Engine 802 commanded by Second As- sistant Chief William G. Hunt, to establish a water supply to the rear of the Sara Lee build- ing from State Street (Movado rear parking lot). 802 uses its deck gun to shoot an 80 foot plus stream, to knock down the heavy exterior fire. This far rear position is supported by Wallington 204 Rescue and Ridgefield Park Ladder 531.
Within 8 to 10 minutes of the initial call, Fire Chief Justin Derevyanik arrives and assumes overall command, but while in transit, calls in a third alarm to a staging area. Chief Migliorino asumes operations command.
Mutual Aid companies begin to arrive, as well as the Zone 2 Coordinator, Chief Anthony Gentile and South Bergen Chief Mutual Aid Co- ordinator Ronald Phillips.
Wood-R idge t a kes a F.A.S.T. Team to the immedi- ate rear of the building.
Little Ferry Ladder 307 sets up in the front of the build- ing and assists Moonachie 805 Tower with roof operations. At this point, there are two crews and at least 20 firefighters working roof operations.
Within the first 15 minutes, Carlstadt Engine 703 arrived and established a separate wa- ter supply to feed the building’s sprinkler systems.
Hasbrouck Heights Engine 616 and Carlstadt Engine 705 assist in the interior attack. At this point, there are three to four crews and between 25 to
35 firefighters now working the interior attack.
The building’s power burns out, apparently from a back feed to the transformer.
Moonachie EMS sets up a rehab area.
The third alarm arrives at the staging area. Command now moves to WRFD Rescue 903. East Rutherford Chief assumes command of the stag- ing area.
At approximately 25 min- utes into the event, roof and interior crews report some progress. Over 50 firefighters are actively fighting multiple fires.
It was discovered that fires are traveling through the duct work in the roof area creating numerous hot spots. Interior crews begin to open up the duct work and concealed areas such as the double roof.
Crews report additional spot fires from the duct work and warehouse, from dust and embers.
Initial companies begin to rotate crews to rehab and are re- placed by third alarm crews.
At an hour and a half into the scene, additional mutual aid departments are called to Moonachie Fire Department Headquarters.
Wood-Ridge First Assis- tant Chief Thomas Burniston assists in operations in the rear of the building. Crews continue to open up duct work and report multiple hot spots -- in essence, chasing the fire.
“Urgent Call” At 21:49 a crew reported a smoke explosion on a cat walk in the middle of the tower causing debris to fall to lower levels.
Chief Burniston transmits “Urgent” to command to advise of a situation as firefighters escape out of rear doorway. Chief Migliorino transmits a “Urgent” request for EMS to the rear of the building for a down firefighter.
Command acknowledges “Urgent” to clear radio traffic, activate the F.A.S.T. Team to the downed firefighter and be- gin evacuation messages with radio and air horns.
Crews that were on the middle and lower levels were accounted for by operations.
Meanwhile, at 21:40 hours there is another fire call at 200 West Com- mercial Avenue in Moon- achie. Lyndhurst Engine, Hackensack Engine, Little Ferry Engine, N. Arlington Rescue and Secaucus Lad- der responded under the di- rection of Chief Gentile and Chief Coordinator Phillips, who were assigned to this alarm.
Interior crews at the top of the tower were evacuated to the roof, with all accounted for by South Hackensack Chief.
At 22:00 hours, all com- panies regrouped and resumed operations.
During the course of the fire event, command holds sev- eral staff meetings with all of the Chiefs and key personnel.
At about 22:30, it was de- termined to be a prolonged operation. At 22:45, command moves to Lyndhurst Rescue, which was also brought in for additional lighting and com- munications.
At about 02:00 hours com- mand determines the fires under control. However, the overhaul process presented a longer requirement. Chief Phillips was asked to set up roaming fire companies on a four hour basis to help with the remaining spot fires that were still flaring up. Outlying towns that had not been called on the alarm cards were requested to repond in a non-emergency sta- tus till 12 noon, at which time the fire was declared out.
During the overhaul, nu- merous coffee storage hoppers and other interior duct work were opened up to evacu- ate smoke and expose all hot spots.
At 12:00 hours, when the fire was declared out, the fire scene was turned over to fire officials to begin investigation. Tower 805 and Engine 803 remained on the scene to post fire watch.
At approximately 15:00 hours, the initial fire investi- gation was completed and the building was released to the owner.
An estimated 140 firefight- ers and 64 EMS participated. Volunteer Fire Departments as- sisting Moonachie were from: Little Ferry, Wood-Ridge, Carlstadt, Hasbrouck Heights, South Hackensack, Wallington, Ridgefield Park, Rutherford, Lyndhurst, Secaucus, East Rutherford, Rochelle Park, Lodi and Bogota.
Hackensack provided En- gine 3 and a MSU/Air Truck. Box 54 also was on the scene.
During the event, three supply lines using 5 inch hose were utilized, with all attack hose being 2 inch. The use of foam was considered in the duct work, but determined to be impractical.
Three injuries were report- ed -- two with smoke inhalation and one with an ankle injury.
This was the fourth fire at the plant this year. Fire officials cited the coffee roasting ma- chines for the causes of three previous fires since October 2008. All fires were in the manufacturing area and not the offices. ###