The Camden Fire
Department

A Catastrophic
Meeting


 

This page is concerned with an incident that happened in Camden, New Jersey on August 16, 1975 when two fire apparatus of the Camden Fire Department collided when answering an alarm. Video of the aftermath of this crash was furnished by Pat Cusick, son of retired Camden Fire Department Captain James Cusick Sr., and the text below is from the 125th Anniversary Book of the Camden Fire Department, a very limited edition history that was published in 1994. 

The fire fighters of Camden have served the city well, often with less than adequate staffing and equipment, and have compiled an admirable record not only during the years covered in the abovementioned book, but in the years since. I doubt that anywhere in the United States have so few done so much for so many with so little.

That being said, I believe that the story of the fire fighters in Camden deserves being told to a much wider audience that the original limited edition book could ever hope to reach, so it will presented here and on other web-pages within the www.dvrbs.com website.

The years 1864-18731912-1928, 1929-1950, 1980-1990 are presented on other webpages.

For profiles of individual fire fighters of years gone by, go to the Camden Fire Department Uniformed Personnel Index or to the Interesting People of Camden web-page.

Please contact me with any comments, questions, or corrections.... and I'm always happy to add further information about the people and event described here. Books have limited space. This website has unlimited space!

This page was first set up in December of 2008. Newspaper accounts and further information will be added in hopefully the near future.

Phil Cohen
Camden NJ

From Camden Fire Department 1869-1994

A CATASTROPHIC MEETING

Motor vehicle accidents involving fire apparatus, particularly while responding to alarms has always been one of many hazards inherent to the job. Collisions occurring between fire apparatus although infrequent, are especially terrifying and routinely result in devastating property damage and death. The cause of these mishaps can be attributed to a variety of reasons, but the circumstances under which they most often occur are two apparatus that intersect each other's path, usually while en route to the same alarm. Over the years the Camden Fire Department has certainly been no exception to these tragic mishaps.

The worst of such accidents occurred on a quiet Sunday afternoon, August 16, 1975, at Sixth and Pine Streets, South Camden. Shortly after 4 P.M., the dispatcher transmitted a Box for a reported vacant building at Sixth and Royden Streets. Engine Company 1 responding first due, got a late start from quarters. Their normal response route would carry them east on Pine Street across Broadway, and to the intersection of Sixth Street where they would swing left and proceed north on Sixth to Royden Street. Engine Company 8 responding second due from their firehouse on Kaighns Avenue, would have a straight and unobstructed run, out Sixth Street same twelve blocks to the fire. One's and Eight's used these response routes thousands of times while responding together, to reach many neighborhoods adjoining these thorofares. Usually by the time Engine 8 reached the intersection of Sixth and Pine Streets, One's was already long passed and well ahead of them several blacks. Rarely did these units cross each other's path on the way

On that Sunday afternoon as Engine Company 1 crossed Broadway at Pine, Engine 8 already well underway, was roaring past Sixth and Spruce Streets rapidly approaching Pine from the south. The last thing that Engine Company 8 expected to see upon entering the intersection of Pine Street, was the blur of another apparatus turning left into its path. Bath apparatus were identical rigs, 1967 American LaFrance pumpers. The left front cab of Engine 8's pumper impacted along the side of One's apparatus forcing the rigs together in a pincer motion. The force of the impact caused both apparatus to bounce off each other and continue onward. Engine 8 mounted the sidewalk, apparatus running over a civilian while crashing through the front of an occupied grocery store, collapsing the front of the building. The inertia of the collision carried Engine 1 northward along Sixth Street far nearly half a block, hitting several parked cars before coming to a rest.

The Officer and driver of Engine Company 8 were trapped in the cab of the apparatus, pinned beneath the collapsed canopy of the pumper's roof. 


It took more than twenty minutes to extricate both members. The Captain suffered two broken ankles and a dislocated shoulder. The driver and both members riding in the rear jump seats suffered a variety of injuries including lacerations, serious contusions and sprains. A fire fighter riding in the jump seat of Engine 1 and on the side of impact, was momentarily compressed between the apparatus and suffered severe internal injury. The remainder of One's crew sustained a variety of non-life threatening injuries. Miraculously there were no fire fighter deaths in this grinding collision. Additional units were summoned to the accident, entered a scene of carnage which same fighters described as "looking like a war zone". Glass, debris, apparatus and broken equipment were scattered about the landscape for nearly a block in every direction.

The lone fatality involved the poor civilian bystander who was whisked off the sidewalk and crushed between the apparatus and the building. The pumpers were totaled and one fire fighter was permanently disabled, never returning to the job. Both apparatus would be replaced by 1975 Maxim engine-forward pumpers without crew seating and were procured on short notice as stock models. Their design was quite unusual for city service in that members were required to ride the backstep. These rigs were also the units in the Department to herald the adoption of the lime-yellow color, a departure from over 100 years of red fire apparatus. 

 

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