Remembering Hackensack and Gloucester

As we approach the July 4th holiday period, two significant LODD incidents previously occurred during this time frame that hold a number of lessons learned related to command management, operations, building construction principles and building...

  • What impact did the Hackensack Ford Fire & Collapse have upon you in your career?
  • Were you aware of this event and its lessons learned prior to this posting?
  • What do you feel you need to learn related to Building Construction, Fire Behavior or Strategy and Tactics related to various occupancies and construction types?
  • What is you knowledge base on Truss Construction related to Timber Bow String or Engineered Structural Systems?

Additional References:


Other Resource Links:

Three Firefighters and Three Sisters Killed in Gloucester City, New Jersey Building Collapse during Fire Attack, Rescue Operation, July 4th, 2002


On July 4th, 2002 at 0136 hrs.,The Gloucester City Fire Department was dispatched to 200 North Broadway for a reported house fire. Responding units were advised that occupants may be trapped. First arriving units were on location in less than three minutes.


They found heavy fire on all exposures of a three-story multi-family dwelling and initiated a search for entrapped occupants. (Various reports from bystanders were at times conflicting regarding the number and location of victims). While providing an aggressive interior attack and rescue operation, an occupant was rescued from the dwelling. Due to the severity of their injuries they were unable to give direction regarding the whereabouts of any other occupants.


While all hands were operating by continuing an aggressive interior attack and rescue, a partial collapse of the structure occurred. An emergency evacuation signal was sounded and while that was commencing a further and much more substantial collapse occurred trapping eight firefighters inside the burning debris.


Additional specialized collapse rescue resources were requested, firefighter accountability was initiated and rescue efforts were intensified. Five of the eight trapped firefighters were rescued. Three of the eight gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to their fellow man. Unfortunately these three children did not survive. A total of nine victims were transported to area hospitals, one civilian and eight firefighters.


  • James Sylvester Fire Chief, Mount Ephraim Fire Department
    Sylvester, 31, a 17 year veteran, was survived by his wife, who was pregnant with the couple’s first child
  • John West Deputy Chief, Mount Ephraim Fire Department
    West, 40, a 23-year veteran, was survived by his wife and three children
  • Thomas G. Stewart III Paid Firefighter, Gloucester City Fire Department
    Stewart, 30, a 13 year veteran, was survived by his fiancée and their son. Stewart publicly proposed to his girlfriend, hours before the fire while they watched the city’s fireworks from high atop a fire truck ladder at Gloucester City High School.
  • NIOSH REPORT: Structural Collapse at Residential Fire Claims Lives of Two Volunteer Fire Chiefs and One Career Fire Fighter – New Jersey, HERE
  • Philadelphia Inquirer Posting, HERE
  • Everyone Goes Home Newsletter Article by Chris Collier, HERE
  • New Jersey Division of Fire Safety LODD Report, HERE

On July 4, 2002, a 30-year-old male volunteer fire chief, a 40-year-old male volunteer deputy fire chief, and a 30-year-old male career fire fighter died when a residential structure collapsed, trapping them, along with four fire fighters and an officer who survived. At 0136 hours, a combination fire department and a mutual-aid volunteer fire department were dispatched to a structure fire.


Local law enforcement radioed Central Dispatch reporting a fully involved structure with three children trapped on the second floor. The first officer on the scene assumed incident command and reported to Central Dispatch that the incident site was a three-story structure with fire showing and that people could be seen at the windows. Note: The female resident (survivor) was the person seen in the window.


The three children that were reported as being trapped did not survive and were later found in the debris. Additional units were requested, including a mutual-aid ladder company from a career department. Crews were on the scene searching for occupants and fighting the fire for approximately 27 minutes when the building collapsed.