PLAINFIELD, NJ – Approximately 70 firefighters from three counties battled an early-morning fire that ripped through a building built in the late 1800’s, leaving it heavily damaged.
On December 17, 2011, at approximately 4:00 a.m., the Plainfield Fire Department responded to 131 North Ave. for a reported structure fire. Upon arrival, heavy fire was showing out a vacant storefront on the first floor and spreading horizontally to two adjacent businesses.
Firefighters stretched several hand lines to the front of the building and started to battle the blaze from the exterior. The fire was so intense; fighters could not make an aggressive interior attack. The bulk of the fire was knocked down on the first floor from the exterior, but the fire entered vertical void spaces and started to travel up to the second and third floors.
Hand lines were advanced up interior stairs in an attempt to cut off the fire, but the fire quickly spread to all floors and the cock loft. Interior conditions deteriorated rapidly and the building started to weaken, forcing all personnel to evacuate the building and conduct operations from the outside. Once interior crews exited the building, fire started to show through the roof and out the rear third floor windows.
Several ground monitors and five elevated master streams were set up around the perimeter to knock down the fire that was starting to consume the entire building. A collapse zone was set up and taped off as portions of the building showed signs of collapsing.
Master streams flowed into the building that still had fire showing until approximately 6:30 a.m. The fire was declared under control shortly after, but master streams continued to flow for several hours as hot spots remained and smoke continued to pour from the building.
Firefighters remained on scene and rotated crews throughout the day flowing water into the building that continued to smolder.
Throughout the years, the building occupied businesses on the first floor and several apartments on the second and third floors. There were two businesses housed on the first floor, while the apartments above were all vacant at the time of the fire.
The building was deemed a total loss by the building department and structural engineers and is scheduled to be razed by a demolition crew. In the mean time, the area has been cordoned off to keep the public a safe distance from the weakened building.
Mutual aid fire departments from South Plainfield, North Plainfield, New Market, Union, Clark, Scotch Plains, Westfield, Summit, Berkeley Heights, Fanwood, and Kenilworth were summoned to assist at the scene and cover the city during the incident.
The fire is being investigated by the Union County Arson Task Force due to the significant loss and that the building was vacant at the time of the fire.