Area firefighters help battle regional blaze in Hillsborough

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By Amy Batista, Special Writer
HILLSBOROUGH – Firefighters from a wide area were called in to battle a six-alarm fire last week in Hillsborough.
The fire broke out Feb. 11 at the Veterans Industrial Park on the west side of Route 206 between Brown Avenue and Camplain Road around 3 p.m when an alarm came in that water sprinklers in a building had activated, according to Hillsborough Mayor Frank DelCore in a press conference.
Gray-black clouds with a slight chemical smell continued to rise Friday morning, but were diminishing by the hour, the township’s health officer said at about 2:15 p.m.
Township Health Officer Glen Belnay said that the smoke plume had “diminished rapidly,” but that health officials were watching for measurements of particulates — minute bits of burning material carried in the air.
East Windsor Township Vol. Fire Co. No. 1 Chief James “Jim” McCann said Monday night that the station’s Tanker 42 was dispatched 6:10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 12.
“We participated in a tanker shuttle to supply water,” he said. “Tanker 42 holds 3,000 gallons of water and dropped about 18 loads, or 54,000 gallons of water.”
He said the statioy sent of crew of two on Feb. 12 and remained until 3 p.m.
“It was very cold, icy conditions,” he said. “Salt trucks were salting the areas that fire trucks were working in.”
Firefighters were rotated away from the site, either going home or to the nearby county fire training facility on Roycefield Road. The volunteers were called in 10- to 12-hour shifts.
Middlesex County Deputy Chief Fire coordinator and water supply manager Scott Kivet said Monday that Plainsboro Tanker 49 and Monroe Tanker 23 responded to assist with water shuttle operations on Friday from 6 a.m. till approximately 2 p.m. with Somerset and Hunterdon County tankers.
“At 1 p.m., the Middlesex County Large Diameter Hose (LDH) strike team was detailed and went into operation at approximately 1:45 p.m, subsequently sustaining 2,600 gallons per minute,” he said. “This supplied three ladder trucks which significantly helped knock down the residual fire.”
Plumes of the smoke could be seen for miles and across counties in the state by residents.
Mayor DelCore reported two injuries to firefighters — one to an eye and one to a leg — but he said he didn’t know which department’s firefighters were involved. He also didn’t know if they had been hospitalized.
According to ownship Chief Fire Marshal Christopher Weniger, said on Friday, there were still 50 to 100 firefighters at the scene on Friday, Feb. 12.
Near-zero temperatures, combined with a steady wind, plagued fire fighting Thursday night, said Mr. Weniger. Icing was a big problem.
During the brunt of the blaze, excessive heat fanned by wind — often in their faces — stymied some of firefighters’ normal tactics, Mr. Weniger said. Most wore self-contained breathing apparatus that helped them battle the fire for 30 minutes at a time before they had to be relieved.
Six to 10 tower trucks were in use during the night. Although there are hydrants in the industrial park, much of the water to fight the fire was being shuttled by fire companies employing tankers from a water source at the fire academy.
Jamesburg Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jonathon Rampacek reflected later on his department being able to assist.
“We were dispatched on Feb. 12 at 12:10 p.m. for a LDH pipe line task force to meet at Middlesex County Fire Academy,” he said on Monday. He said they sent their engine with a crew of five.
“The county sent us five engines,” he said. “When we arrived we hooked up to a hydrant on Route 206 and with the five engines pumping the crews were able to flow around 2,600 gallons per minute to supply three ladders at one point,” he said.
He said that his department replaced its crew at 8:30 p.m., keeping a crew of five with the truck until 4 a.m. on Feb. 13.
“We broke down and started packing up our frozen hose,” he said. “We got back to the firehouse around 6:30 a.m. When we got there our crews stated the bulk of the fire was out and had hot spots and pockets of fire still left.”
Middlesex County Deputy Chief Fire Coordinator Kivet said that companies from Middlesex also assisted Thursday night, including Kendal Park’s ladder from South Brunswick, a ladder from East Brunswick Dist. No. 1, engines from New Market Fire Department from Piscataway, South Amboy, North Brunswick Fire Company 1, Colonial Fire Company from Woodbridge Dist. 12 and a South River Engine.
There were no occupants in the buildings. Officials said they haven’t had a chance to identify the cause of the fire.

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