The Bronx is on fire!
In the 60's and 70's, the borough of The Bronx was on an even par with Brooklyn in fire activity. There were times dispatchers would go to work and not get a chance to eat or leave their positions for 8 hours. A recent retiree, while trying to impart upon me what it was like back then, said he got psyched up for work while driving to the Bronx; he would count the number of plumes visible from the Whitestone Bridge.
Most of the dispatchers who lived through those times have either long since retired or have been dispatched to the great central office in the sky. Long gone are the days of constant activity and the sound of telegraph bells ringing constantly in your head.
Wednesday morning, November 27, 1996, it was the 60's all over again. The borough of The Bronx quickly remembered it's history and again became the Borough of Fire.
At 1:49 A.M., Bronx transmitted box 3761 for a taxpayer fire at 3728 Riverdale Avenue in the Riverdale section. A 1 story brick commercial structure measuring 100 x 100. Fire had gotten into 4 stores and went to 4 alarms.
At 2:19 A.M., box 3923 was transmitted for a fire in a railroad freight car on the Metro-North tracks near W 254 Street and the Hudson River. The car was loaded with bales of paper. 2 adjoining cars also were filled with paper. 2 cars behind that were LPG tankers that were empty, but had LPG residue within. As this fire loomed on into the early morning, Metro-North was growing concerned about clearing the lines for the expected pre- thanksgiving rush hour. When the fire was largely knocked down, they moved all 8 cars in the train to Sedgewick Avenue and Depot Place. At 4:47 A.M., Bronx transmitted box 2717 for the new location and fresh units were brought in to extinguish whatever fire was left and overhaul the mess. Despite the dual box response, this fire was called an "All-Hands."
At 3:55 A.M., box 2575 was transmitted for another taxpayer fire at 96 East 167 Street. This 1 story 100 x 100 brick building housed 9 stores. About an hour into the incident, a wall collapsed and trapped several firefighters. They were quickly recovered and escaped with only minor injuries. This fire raged on for 3 hours 27 minutes and went to 5 alarms.
At 4:27 A.M., box 2985 was transmitted for 1920 Walton Avenue. A stone's throw from the 5th alarm at box 2575. The fire was on the 3rd floor of a 6 story 100 x 100 occupied multiple dwelling. This fire went to "All-Hands."
Suffice to say that numerous relocations needed to be made to insure fire protection for the borough. There are only 32 engines and 27 trucks assigned to The Bronx. With these 4 incidents ongoing simultaneously, there were 44 engines and 21 trucks operating; not including special calls and engines associated with special units such as the maxi-water and satellites.
Maybe the use of a computer assisted dispatch system made it a little easier to handle this kind of activity. No one had to run around and look up an address on the map, or consult the street file for box numbers, or pound out signals on the bells. But even if it did, we certainly got a taste of what the "good ole days" were like.