Camden Firefighters Battle 12-Alarm Building Fire

“It was like a Firestorm” – Camden City Chief of Department Michael Harper.

Firefighters were called to Chestnut and Orchard St. on Thursday June 9 several minutes before 4 p.m in the Parkside neighborhood. An off-duty Camden City firefighter who lived on the block reported the Old Tire Factory with heavy fire showing on the first and second floors.

Battalion 1 arrived and reported a block-long warehouse with heavy fire conditions and exposure problems, and request the All Hands and to start the 2nd and 3rd alarm boxes. All companies on the initial box were advised to secure a water supply and lay in. Battalion 1 reported a section of the warehouse to be heavily involved with fire spreading to a catwalk over a street to the other section.

Car 1 arrived and struck additional alarms. A Ladder Strike Team was dispatched as companies surrounded the building and went in operation with Ladder Pipes, Deck Guns and 2 ½” lines. Two EMS Task Forces were called; one from Camden County as well as one from Gloucester County.

Car 1 struck additional alarms as the entire warehouse was fully involved and experiencing wall collapses as well as fire spreading to houses surrounding the building. Flames were intense and due to 10 mph winds, the fire ignited dwellings on the other side of the street.

Engine 1 was replaced from the fire ground after having mechanical issues. Additional companies were called in for a 2-alarm fire a block away that involved four dwellings heavily involved. Companies performed defensive operations at these as well.

The blaze reached 12 alarms which brought 59 departments from three counties in as temperatures reached almost 100 degrees. EMS transported three firefighters to nearby hospitals. A fuel truck was brought into the scene to refuel apparatus during operations.

The fire was placed under control around 9 p.m. as a major thunderstorm rolled into the city. Ladder pipes were lowered during the severe lighting conditions. Command reported water problems as multiple hydrants were damaged due to the brass fittings being removed from them. Also many hydrants in the area were all on the same water grid. Companies set up a drafting site from the Cooper River. Engines were also set up for relays from hydrants throughout the city.

The Red Cross reported assisting 55 people from dwellings that were damaged from the inferno. After the fire neighbors compared their neighborhood to a warzone with multiple buildings burned out and 16 families left homeless. The building, when in operation, was a tire factory. The building was open for operation from 1964 to 1999. The flames damaged 23 properties.

Train service was interrupted as crews were needed to extinguish brush fires on the tracks located close to the warehouse. Miles of hose were laid across the city.  Electricity was shut off to the entire side of the city surrounding the warehouse. Camden City Fire Department did not have all engine companies in service as layoffs forced closure to several companies earlier in the year.

The Camden City Fire Marshals, Camden County Fire Marshals, Camden Police, State Fire Marshals and ATF have the cause of the fire under investigation.

Story and Photos by Ted Aurig