The Hackensack Ford fire which occurred twenty years ago today July 1 1988 still holds many lessons and is a modern landmark fire. For my generation the Hackensack Ford fire was a major learning fire. The practices and procedures of our day were greatly affected by the tragic loss of 5 wonderful men. Captain Williams, Lieutenant Reinhagen, and Firemen Kresja, Radumski, and Ennis were killed while fighting a fire at Hackensack Ford at 320 River Street. These 5 men were in the structure which had a bowstring truss roof assembly when suddenly it collapsed. Williams, Kresja, and Radumski were killed instantly, and Reinhagen and Ennis, despite heroic rescue attempts ran out of air and died of asphyxiation while trapped in a tool room.
This fire was one of the first caught on video tape and the radio transmissions are still being used in training today. The fallout if not predictable was not unlike what we are seeing today regrading the Charleston fire and other recent multiple line of duty deaths. Pundits armed with twenty twenty hindsight, even folks who have never even used a fire extinguisher in their kitchens, were then as they are now somehow suddenly experts.
We as fire service providers should review these events and ask our selves what were these good men seeing that made them believe their tactics would be successful. What items had captured their attention so that they were unable to see the cues to events which soon would claim their lives. It is easy to say the troops zigged when they should have zagged it is like picking the lottery numbers the day after. Study the events and put yourself there try to see what they saw and always try to avoid the blame game. The villains are usually guys like me and you the day before but they are Benedict Arnold the day after. Saying someone messed up is easy saying why takes courage insight and reflection. Before we throw stones first lets be sure that we have walked a few miles down similar roads ourselves and then be sure we have something constructive to add. These are important lessens to understand and these fires are complicated events. We must avoid being quick to over simplify these very dynamic and challenging fires to meet our own personal agendas.
A side note things are happening right now in Hackensack which are not good. The Fire based EMS system is being threatened by forces which would remove it the Fire Departments control and make it privately controlled by a hospital. The IAFF and many other knowledgeable and informed groups including the citizens of the good city of Hackensack are outraged and doing everything they can to prevent the take over. The next link will take you to pictures of a rally held yesterday. http://www.northjersey.com/multimedia/photogalleries/22725589.html
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