Camden Fire Department
Fire, Rescue, & Safety Operations
May 26, 2012 - Gramercy Park Apartments


This page and the other pages in this series are the successors to the series of web-page about the Camden Fire Department that began with the page Camden Fire Department: The Fires of the Summer of 2011. On this and other pages in the series you will find pictures and information regarding different events and aspects of the fire service in Camden, New Jersey.

A very bad fire in the early morning hours of May 26, 2012 claimed the life of one child, injured four other people and left several families homeless. I did not get to this fire until later in the day, fortunately other photographers were at the scene and the local news media covered the story in depth.  

At 5:09 AM Camden Fire and EMS units were dispatched for the garden apartment dwellings at the Gramercy Park Apartments, 2880 Hull Road in Camden's Fairview section. Engine 10 and BLS-21 of the EMS service arrived on scent to find three inits involved and numerous people trapped. Companies arrived with three units involved. Camden Fire Department personnel rescued a toddler who sadly died from injuries. The fire quickly spread to 4 alarms bringing in multiple mutual aid fire and EMS units. 

As with the web page covering other Camden Fire Department events, if you can identify anyone that I've missed, please e-mail me. (I'm terrible at at names and faces). 

Phil Cohen
July 13, 2012

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Photos by Constantine Sypsomos

WPVI-6 Action News Photos
Omar Miller - _____________ - Capt. John Church - Battalion Chief Tony Phelps
 

VIDEO CLIP
WPVI-6 Action News * May 26, 2012

Camden Courier-Post * May 26, 2012

Aftermath of a fire in Camden that killed a toddler and injured five at Gramercy Park Apartments. / Denise Henhoeffer/Courier-Post

Toddler killed, 5 hurt in Camden fire

Written by
JOE COONEY
Courier-Post Staff

CAMDEN — A 22-month-old boy was killed and several other people injured early Saturday in a four-alarm fire at the Gramercy Park Apartments on the 2800 block of Hull Road.

The mother of the boy, his father and 4-month-old brother were taken to Cooper University Hospital by a neighbor and treated for smoke inhalation.

The mother was released by early Saturday afternoon and was staying with her mother in Merchantville, according to Kashon Russ, a family friend.

Russ identified the mother as Galaxy Brown, 22. Russ said the father of the two boys is Troy Floyd Brown, and the boys are named Dontae and Elijah. Dontae perished in the blaze. The couple is not married, but happen to share the same last name, Russ said.

Two other people were hospitalized, officials said, but their conditions were not known late Saturday.

The eight units of Building A in the complex were destroyed and all of the occupants displaced. The Camden County Chapter of the American Red Cross said it has assisted 14 people with temporary shelter and food and clothing vouchers.

“We also have mental health support on standby for the families,” said Camy Trinidad of the Red Cross. “We’ve been told there are others needing help but we haven’t been approached by anyone yet.”

Camden Mayor Dana Redd called the event tragic, but said the fire department succeeded in keeping it from being worse.

“The loss of any life, especially that of an infant, is extremely tragic,” Redd said Saturday afternoon. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who lost their child and those who have been displaced during this unfortunate event.

“Our fire department did a great job to contain and control the fire. At this point, it is too early to speculate the origin and cause of the fire.”

Officials continue to investigate the inferno, which broke out a little before 2 a.m. The cause is not known, but residents and neighbors said they heard a loud noise just before the flames appeared.

“(Galaxy Brown) said she heard this boom,” Russ recounted Saturday afternoon. “She didn’t know what it was, but she said all of sudden there were flames and smoke and her roof started to cave in.”

The Browns lived in apartment A-6, a second-floor unit.

Russ said she and her sister, whom she called Galaxy’s best friend, heard a commotion about 1:45 a.m. and left their apartment in an adjoining building to see what was going on.

“We came out and it was crazy,” Russ said. “The flames weren’t even orange, they were like a bright red. And Galaxy was outside screaming, ‘My baby is stuck. Somebody get my baby.’

“Her boyfriend kept trying to get back into the apartment, but there was so much smoke and flames. He kept trying,” Russ said, her voice trailing off.

“By then the roof was caving in and the firemen were busting out windows. They told (Troy) he couldn’t go back in there.”

Glenda Ransom, who resided in apartment A-7 on the first floor of the building, said she was sleeping on her couch when the fire broke out.

“I was asleep and this huge boom woke me up,” said Ransom, a resident of the complex for 15 years.

“Next thing there were fire and flames everywhere and I could hear (Galaxy Brown) screaming. I got out of my apartment through the sliding door and jumped over the fence in the back.”

On a sunny and warm Saturday afternoon, neighbors and curious onlookers gathered around the burned-out building, which faces Hull Road. Across the street, on the corner of Cushing Avenue, Diamonique Carr sat on the stoop of her house.

“It was about 2:30 in the morning when I woke up and saw the lights from the firetrucks,” said Carr. “It looked like the whole building was in flames, and they were moving across the roof from the back (of A-6).

“The whole street was filled with firetrucks and the flames were so high and wide, we thought they were going to come to our house. It was very scary.”

A bedroom window of apartment B-1, cater-corner to the A building, was cracked in several places from the heat of the fire. The apartment’s occupant, Yadira Torres, said she was awakened by “what sounded like glass shattering.

“I told my man to get the girls and get out,” said the mother of two, ages 6 and 1. “I called 911 but it took about 15 or 20 minutes for the firemen to get here. I heard (Galaxy) screaming, but then I also told my boyfriend to try and get the old lady who lives on the ground floor.

“He hurt his foot trying to kick in the window. Then the fire department finally showed up and they got her out.”

Torres said she and her boyfriend then huddled the Browns away from the burning building as firefighters went in to retrieve the lifeless body of Dontae.

“When they brought (Dontae) out, (Troy) just dropped to the ground. I saw the baby had burn marks really bad.”

Torres then took the three Browns to Cooper Hospital. She said she asked Galaxy Brown what had happened and if she knew how the fire started.

“She was hysterical,” Torres said. “She just said they heard this sound — the same we all heard — and then there was the fire.”

Torres said she was allowed back into her apartment around 7 a.m. She hadn’t slept since Saturday morning.

Neighbor Russ said Galaxy Brown was in shock Saturday afternoon.

“She’s blaming herself. She can’t understand how this happened. When she talks you can barely hear what’s she’s saying.

“She can’t believe this. She couldn’t get to her child.”

Camden Courier-Post * May 26, 2012
DENISE HENHOEFFER/Courier-Post

Camden fire fighters {Ed Vincent at left} search through one of the eight units destroyed in an early morning fatal four-alarm blaze at Gramercy Park Apartments in Camden on Saturday, May 26, 2012. The fire destroyed killed a young child, Dontae Brown, injured several others, destroyed eight apartments and displaced its residents.

Residents watch as Camden firefighters try to salvage personal items from their apartment after an early morning fatal four-alarm blaze at Gramercy Park Apartments in Camden on Saturday, May 26, 2012 destroyed their home. The fire destroyed killed a young child, Dontae Brown, injured several others, destroyed eight apartments and displaced its residents..

Camden County Fire Marshals Office investigate an early morning fatal four-alarm blaze at Gramercy Park Apartments in Camden on Saturday, May 26, 2012. The fire destroyed killed a young child, Dontae Brown, injured several others, destroyed eight apartments and displaced its residents.

FOX-29 News * May 26, 2012
Toddler Killed In 4-Alarm Fire
 

A 4-alarm fire in Camden, NJ claims the life of a 22-month-old toddler, and injures five others.

Heavy flames roared from the Gramercy Park Apartments around 2am. The fire grew so quickly, that the Camden Fire Department needed to call fire crews from surrounding towns to help contain the blaze.

Numerous rescues were made, including a 22-month-old toddler, who was taken to the hospital where he later died.

Camden Fire Chief Michael Harper says five others were also hurt in the fire, including 3 children. At least one of those children is still in critical condition at Cooper University Hospital.

Harper said limited fire hydrants and narrow streets were problems for firefighters last night, as larger fire apparatuses had a difficult time maneuvering in the apartment complex.

The Red Cross is helping those families who lost their homes. In all, 8 units were destroyed.

Right now the cause of the fire is still under investigation, but officials say they do not believe it is suspicious..

Newark Star-Ledger * May 26, 2012
Four-alarm Camden fire kills toddler, displaces families
A 22-month-old child was killed in a 4-alarm fire in
Camden early Saturday morning, city officials say.

By Seth Augenstein/The Star-Ledger 

CAMDEN — A 22-month-old boy was killed in a 4-alarm fire early this morning, and the families in the building were displaced, city officials have confirmed.

The fire started at the Gramercy Park Apartments on Hull Road about 3 a.m., according to city spokesman Robert Corrales. Eight families were displaced in the blaze.

The cause of the fire is unknown, but under investigation, Corrales added. The fire is currently under control, officials said.

Mayor Dana Redd called the event tragic, but said the fire department succeeded in keeping it from being worse.

"The loss of any life, especially that of an infant, is extremely tragic,” Redd said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who lost their child and those who have been displaced during this unfortunate event.

“Our fire department has done a great job to contain and control the fire. At this point, it is too early to speculate the origin and cause of the fire,” the mayor added.

WPVI-6 Action News * May 26, 2012
Camden inferno kills toddler, injures five others

Camden, NJ - May 26, 2012 (WPVI) -- A four-alarm fire in Camden has ravaged a family and left many other lives in shambles.

Flames broke out early Saturday morning inside the Gramercy Park Apartments, on the 28-hundred block of Hull Road in Camden.

By the time firefighters could begin battling the blaze, flames were shooting through the roof. Firefighters from nearby towns responded to help take on the fire.

Inside, flames entered a bedroom, critically burning a 22-month-old boy. Firefighters smashed windows and rushed inside to get to the toddler. They handed him off to medics, but it was in vain. The boy died at Cooper University Hospital.

The fire left his mother in shock, and his young brother with smoke inhalation. Both of them are hospitalized at this hour. Three other people are being treated at the hospital for smoke inhalation and are expected to recover.

Action News is told that two people remain unaccounted for. Firefighters have not reported finding them in the ruins, or somewhere else.

Fire officials say the inferno has been placed under control.

The Red Cross is reporting 18 people need shelter and other assistance because of the fire.

The cause of the blaze is still under investigation..

Photos by Phil Cohen
 
 

Philadelphia Inquirer * May 27, 2012
Fierce Camden fire kills toddler, injuries baby, four others

By Kristin E. Holmes and Frank Kummer
Inquirer Staff Writers

A four-alarm fire that witnesses say rousted them from bed in the middle of the night with an explosion tore through a Camden apartment complex, killing a toddler, and injuring four others.

A four-month-old baby is among those hospitalized, and eight units were destroyed as a result of the blaze that began shortly before 2 a.m., according to Camden Fire Chief Michael Harper.

"It’s a bad fire," Harper said early this morning at the scene at the Gramercy Park apartments in the city’s Fairview section.

Harper said there was no known cause identified yet, and the fire that killed a 22-month-old was under investigation. He said it was unclear if all the injured, which included what’s believed to be the mother and father of one of the children, were all in the same unit. The injured were taken to both Cooper University Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, both in Camden. Officials did not immediately identify the victims.

However, a neighbor Kushon Russ, who said she was a family friend, identified the family as: Galaxy Brown, 22; her boyfriend, Troy Floyd Brown, 20; their sons, Elijah, 4-months-old; and, Dontae, 22-months-old. Neighbors said Galaxy Brown works in a nursing home and her boyfriend stays at home with the children.

A spokesman for Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center said they treated and released two fire victims believed to be Galaxy and Troy. But no further information was available as of early this afternoon.

Glenda Ransom, who lived in one of the burned-out units, said she was awakened by an explosion.

"It was a big boom," said Ransom, who has lived at the complex for 15 years.


"Then I heard the girl screaming," Ransom said in reference to what she believed to be the mother of the child who was killed. "That baby was in there."

Ransom said she did not personally know the woman who lived in the second-floor unit where the blaze started.

"They were young, they were in their 20s," she said.

"All I heard was her screaming," Ransom repeated, clearly shaken. She said she had lost everything.

Several residents at the complex said they were puzzled that an explosion appeared to have started the fire since utilities at the complex at the apartment are electric. The only gas line they could think of ran to the laundry room. But they said that appeared intact.

Ann Moore, whose son manages the complex but was away, came to check on the units. She shoot her head at the devastation, which completely gutted and blew out whole rooms.

"I just came to make sure everyone is OK," said Moore, who said she was saddened that was not the case.

Check back for more details as they develop..

Philadelphia Inquirer * May 28, 2012
Camden apartment fire claims life of 22-month-old

By Frank Kummer and Kristen E. Holmes
Inquirer Staff Writer

Marcos Sosa of Camden was shaken from his sleep by the screams.

"Oh, my God! Oh my God!" he heard someone yelling from above his first-floor unit in the Gramercy Park Apartments. When he ran outside, he saw flames burning so furiously one neighbor described them as looking "evil and alive."

The blaze in a second-floor apartment in the two-story A building of the 104-unit complex started about 1:30 a.m. Saturday, neighbors said, and by the time it was under control, it had claimed the life of a 22-month-old child and injured others, including members of the child’s family.

Officials did not identify the child or the injured, but neighbor Kashon Russ, who said she was a family friend, identified the occupants of the apartment as Galaxy Brown, 22; her boyfriend, Troy Floyd Brown, 20; and sons Elijah, 4 months; and Dontae, 22 months.

The cause of the fire had not yet been identified, Camden Fire Chief Michael Harper said early Saturday. In late afternoon, Jason Laughlin, spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, said authorities had not determined whether the fire was accidental or criminal but were still investigating. If the cause was accidental, authorities will likely not identity the victims, he said.

The four-alarm blaze rousted neighbors from bed when many heard what sounded like an explosion.

Galaxy Brown, who neighbors said works in a nursing home, was in the living room with Troy Floyd Brown when she heard a boom so loud it shook the walls and caved in the ceiling, said Russ, who was talking by phone Saturday with Galaxy Brown.

Brown was holding her 4-month-old when the fire broke out, Russ said. Troy Brown ran toward the bedroom to save Dontae, who was sleeping, but the smoke was too thick, Russ said. The adults managed to escape, but Troy Brown tried to go back in, and was again stopped by the smoke, Russ said. He was burned in that attempt, Russ said. Firefighters later brought out Dontae as the family watched, neighbors said.

Neighbor Yaeira Torres, 32, said she took Galaxy, Troy, and Elijah Brown to Cooper University Hospital about 2 a.m. A spokesman for the hospital declined to comment. On Saturday, Russ said Galaxy Brown was staying with family in Merchantville and Troy and Elijah Brown were due to be released from the hospital later in the day. Two other fire victims were taken to Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center and released shortly after.

Sosa stood outside his burned-out apartment on Saturday, patiently waiting for the Camden County chapter of the American Red Cross to arrive. He and his wife, Raquel, their three sons, and a brother-in-law have lived in the first-floor unit for eight years. They escaped without injury.

A passing neighbor asked the Sosas whether they had eaten since the fire. She returned with food, and said, "I’m sorry for your loss."

As the afternoon wore on, more neighbors came out to look, PSE&G arrived to shut off gas lines, and trucks were parked outside the complex with planks to board up the building and fence to cordon it off..

 

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