At 4:36 A.M. on Nov. 7, 2009, a fire alarm was relayed to the Borough of Buena Police 911 center in Atlantic County, NJ, for a fire at 1118 Black Horse Pike in the Borough of Folsom, the Horsin' Around Bar & Grille. Dispatched on the call was a single-station response for the Borough of Folsom Volunteer Fire Department. Folsom Chief Larry Smith was advised by dispatch that the alarm was coming from the basement, with the occupants reporting smoke in the basement.
The Borough of Folsom is in a rural area of western Atlantic County and is bordered by the Town of Hammonton on the north, Camden County on the west and Buena Vista Township on the south. The department is made up of three apparatus, two engines and one combination engine-tender, protecting an 8.5-square-mile area.
The structure was a two-story, wood-and-concrete, balloon-frame construction with a bar on the first floor and living quarters on the second floor. The basement housed a fuel oil tank and furnace. Smith arrived and found smoke showing from the structure and requested a full response from the Collings Lake and Newtonville volunteer fire companies from Buena Vista Township.
A stairway on side B of the structure led to the second floor. Believing the fire was on the second floor, firefighters began attacking the fire from this area. A second area of attack was begun by Collings Lake firefighters using a single 1¾-inch line from side C of the structure where flames could be seen.
At 4:51, Smith requested a ladder and water tender from the City of Hammonton Volunteer Fire Department and a water tender task force due to a lack of water supply in the area. Atlantic County Water Tender Task Force Bravo was dispatched, bringing a force of water tenders and engines to the scene. Task Force Bravo is one of the largest water tender task forces in the state. It is comprised of volunteer fire companies from Atlantic, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties. The task force was established years ago after a major fire in the western end of Atlantic County highlighted the need for a constant water supply.
The Hammonton Fire Department responded with Tower 9, a 100-foot rear-mount platform, and Tender 9, and arriving moments later was a tractor-drawn tender from the East Vineland Volunteer Fire Company. While Tower 9 set up, the East Vineland tender set up alongside Tower 9 to supply it with water. Portable ponds were set up on the west side of the fire directly on the Black Horse Pike. An engine from the Minotola Volunteer Fire Company of Buena Borough was set up to draft out of the ponds to supply the Collings Lake and Newtonville apparatus operating on the west side of the fire. On the east side of the fire, where the Folsom apparatus was positioned, water tenders from the Landisville Volunteer Fire Company of Buena Borough and the Weymouth Volunteer Fire Company of Hamilton Township were positioned to supply the Folsom apparatus.
At 5:49 A.M., Mays Landing firefighters stretched two three-inch lines to the roof of side C to a deluge gun supplied by Folsom's engine. At 6 A.M., a 75-foot rear-mount quint from Landisville (Ladder 11) was set up along the A/D side of the structure and put into service. Shortly before these operations were put into effect, Smith established an Incident Command System (ICS) by appointing East Vineland Chief Ron Ruggeri as Division A Operations, Hammonton Chief Domenick Digiovannangelo as Division B Operations, Richland Chief Tony Monfredo as Division C Operations and Mays Landing Assistant Chief Ken Badger Jr. as Division D Operations.
Once the aerial operations went into effect, all firefighters were ordered out of the building and a defensive mode was commenced, as fire was breaking through the roof. Firefighters continued to pour water onto the fire until 7:15 A.M. At this time, firefighters attempted to put water into the basement on side C of the structure, without success. The fire progressed to a one-story attached addition where two propane tanks were located and had to be removed by firefighters. Rapid intervention teams from the Forest Grove, Hammonton and South Egg Harbor volunteer fire companies were positioned around the structure due to the amount of fire and large number of firefighters on the scene.
At 7:40 A.M., Tower 9 and Ladder 11 were shut down for interior operations to begin. A backhoe from Borough of Folsom Public Works and an excavator from a private contractor, Joe Bass Excavation of Franklinville, began opening up the structure. At 8:35 A.M., foam units from the Star Cross and Weymouth volunteer fire companies began a foam operation to extinguish the basement fire. By 9:22 A.M., all remaining fire was extinguished, including the upper floors of the two-story fire building, which was done via the safety of Ladder 11.
The excavator remained in operation for most of the day, tearing into the building and allowing for complete extinguishment. Investigators from the New Jersey State Police and New Jersey Division of Fire Safety were investigating the cause of the fire as a leaking fuel line in the basement.
DENNIS C. SHARPE, a Firehouse® contributing editor, a 30-year veteran of the fire service, is captain of Farmington Volunteer Fire Company 4 of the Egg Harbor Township, NJ, Fire Department. He is an instructor with Atlantic County's Anthony "Tony" Canale Fire Training Center, drillmaster of the EHTFD, and a licensed construction official, fire subcode official and high-hazard specialist. Sharpe may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via his website www.sharpephotography.org.