1929 to 1950


To celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Camden Fire Department, a very limited edition history 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 website.

The years 1864-18731912-1928, and 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 on February 27, 2005. Pictures will be added soon

Phil Cohen
Camden NJ

Camden Fire Department 1869-1994

The Depression Years

The Schulte-United Store occupied a five-story building at #23 Broadway between Federal and Carman Streets, center city. Around 2:30 A.M. on December 30, 1929, a fire of suspicious origin was discovered by two men who pulled Box 94 at Broadway and Federal Streets. Heavy smoke produced punishing conditions which prevented firemen from entering the basement. The second alarm was ordered as engine companies dropped lines to the basement level through elevator shafts in an attempt to darken the blaze. 

This effort proved unsuccessful as the fire raced upward in the shafts from the basement to the roof. Greater Alarms were transmitted to develop additional master streams on the upper floors. By 6 A.M., the first floor collapsed into the basement in a thundering roar. It was another two hours before Chief Thomas Nicholas declared the fire under control. Police questioned two janitors after discovering cans of coal oil on the roof of an adjoining building. The men were later released. 

All cities have long held certain sections or districts that pose extraordinary potential for serious fires. When firemen were heard to say "that's a bad Box", they meant that the area from which an alarm was received, often contained special hazards associated with certain types of buildings or occupancies. The City of Camden was certainly no exception. 

Three fifty-one Box at Fillmore Street and Chelton Avenue served a heavy industrial area, of lower Broadway in South Camden. While Camden Fire Fighters throughout the fifties, sixties and seventies, might only remember the infrequent alarm for dumpsters in the project, or an occasional freight car in the nearby rail yards, this neighborhood held special meaning for generations of fire fighters during the earlier decades of the century.

Bulson Street was a macadam service road that ran east to west from Fourth to Eleventh Streets, adjoining the South Camden rail yards. Along Bulson Street between Sixth and Master, stood a complex of towering grain elevators, some as large as eight stories in height. These structures held hundreds of metric tons of grain, for both the nearby brewery and as interim storage for rail transportation. Dust explosions and fires associated with spontaneous combustion, produced frequent and spectacular blazes. It was said that as soon as Box 351 tapped in for Fillmore Street and Chelton Avenue, second alarm units would be putting their boots on in the firehouses even before the first due company had arrived.

At 4 A.M. on Good Friday, April 18, 1930, Box 351 went for three alarms at Sixth and Bulson Streets, South Camden. As Engine Company 8 turned into Broadway, responding first due on the second alarm, they could see heavily involved grain elevator looming many distant blocks away.

At 7 P.M. on Monday, May 5, 1930, Engine Company 10 responded over  twenty-five miles on mutual aid, to the Colony of Medford Lakes, New Jersey. A fast moving blaze in the Pine Barrens threatened numerous buildings in the village. Over twenty-five fire companies and an estimated two thousand fire fighters worked throughout the night to contain the fire.

Engine 10 drafted from several lakes as the blaze burned to the edge of the colony before being stopped. Engine Company 10 operated for nearly eleven hours, returning to the City around 7 A.M. the following morning.

On March 1, 1932, units of the Department responded on mutual aid to the City of Pennsgrove for a conflagration involving fifty-seven buildings, mostly frame dwellings in the residential district. Serious water supply problems overwhelmed Salem County fire companies and caused the fire to rapidly spread from building to building, jumping across streets. Camden Fire Fighters placed apparatus on nearby wharfs and bulkheads along the Delaware River and drafted to control the blaze. Engine Companies 2 and 10 under the direction of Chief Thomas Nicholas positioned themselves directly in the path of the advancing inferno to cutoff the rapidly spreading fire. They worked with companies from Salem and were credited with halting the  flames before they reached the business district.

During the years of the Great Depression, the Federal Government formed the W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) which provided thousands of jobs, predominantly among public works projects. The re-building of roads, bridges and infrastructure provided temporary employment of a highly constructive nature. In the City of Camden, the Fire Department endeavored to acquire a high-pressure fire hydrant system. The proposed project would install a high pressure pumping station at the Delaware River with a large diameter grid supplying a separate network of hydrants. The network would service the entire center city area from the Delaware River to the Cooper River. Such high-pressure hydrants would operate at 120 PSI without the benefit of fire apparatus. The W.P.A. would provide the labor force and equipment necessary to erect the system, at no cost to local government. The City would furnish all of the required material. As a result of other fiscal priorities in municipal government, the City declined this valuable opportunity to acquire high-pressure service.

At 7:15 A.M. on March 9, 1932, grocer Benjamin Plevinsky while opening his store at Locust and Spruce Streets, South Camden, heard a tremendous explosion. The blast occurred in a purifying tank in the Public Service Electric and Gas Company plant near Locust and Cherry Streets. Mr. Plevinsky looked up and saw a man engulfed in flames, attempting to descend the stairway from the tank. The grocer immediately telephoned the fire department. Arriving fire fighters attempted to rescue numerous workers reported to be trapped in the tank, but were repeatedly driven back by noxious sulfur fumes. Firemen donned breathing apparatus but were still repelled as the fumes penetrated the primitive masks. By the time the fire was extinguished, fourteen employees were missing.

Assisted by workmen, the fire fighters removed the charred and mangled bodies by noon. It was believed that a spark from a workman's shovel or shoe nail may have ignited vapors in the tank.

The Public Service car barns at Tenth Street and Newton Avenue, South Camden, were a series of block long, one-story garage buildings that served as storage facilities for more than a hundred buses.

Near 2:30 A.M. on the night of July 29, 1932, during a driving rain storm, a bolt of lightning started a fire in the large machine shop adjoining the coach facility. The blaze rapidly extended to exploding acetylene and gasoline tanks. Three alarms were transmitted in quick succession as companies attempted an aggressive interior attack with big handlines. With fire roaring over the heads of advancing fire fighters, Chief Thomas Nicholas ordered all companies out of the building, just in time. As The last unit to withdraw, Engine Company 1 had just backed their line out of the building when shortly after 3 A.M., a terrific explosion blew out the front and rear walls, causing a major collapse of the roof. Fortunately, there were no reported injuries. The building was completely destroyed resulting in a $250.000 loss. The under control signal was given shortly after 4 A.M.

In 1932 following a seven year tenure, Chief of Department Thomas Nicholas retired. Chief John Lennox was appointed as his successor. "Chappie Lennox" was an old time fireman - a product of the long passed horse drawn era. Chief Lennox was known as a stern but fair man and the men of the department respected him as a competent leader. Many members of the Department marveled at the Chief s physical ability to withstand punishing conditions particularly for a man of his age. Even in his sixties, stories abounded about hot, vicious cellar fires with smoke conditions that sapped even the most seasoned of veteran firemen. While entire companies of men were laid out with chins to the floor, trying to advance a line down a long hall under conditions of murderous heat and smoke, Chappie with a cigar clenched in his teeth would walk over them and stand upright near the nozzleman. Firemen often joked, half seriously, that it was his blunt cigar that filtered the toxic atmosphere. John Lennox would remain Chief of Department for fourteen years.

On January 1, 1933, and at the height of the Great Depression, Engine Companies 4 and 5 were disbanded from service as a measure of fiscal constraint. An ensuing fiscal crisis caused a near default of municipal government. The City briefly suspended its municipal payroll and then issued "scrip" to Police and Fire Fighters - negotiable certificates that were redeemable as local currency.

The Division of Fire Prevention was organized within the Bureau of Fire on July 1, 1933. A Fire Marshal of civilian grade, outside the ranks of the Uniformed Force was appointed to this position.

On the very hot day of July 10, 1933, yet another near conflagration occurred at the C.B. Coles & Sons lumberyard on Kaighns Point at the Delaware River. Five alarms from Box 31 were transmitted for a rapidly spreading fire involving an entire block bounded by Front Street, Second Street, Kaighn Avenue and Mechanic Street. Before the blaze could be controlled, the lumberyard, a row of dwellings, a warehouse, a garage, and two colonial houses were destroyed. Twenty-three persons were left homeless while damage exceeded $300,000.  

On September 1, 1933, a citywide alarm assignment index was appropriated to all firehouses. This index at the housewatch desk provided a standard listing of all fire company responses, first through fourth alarms, including automatic transfers for relocation, for every Box in the City.

Shortly after 1 A.M. on February 14, 1934, a fire was discovered in the basement of the Hitchner Building at Fifth and Mickle Streets, South Camden. The Chief of the 1st Battalion ordered a second alarm on arrival as more fighters struggled to hold the blaze in the basement. Their best efforts were unsuccessful as the blaze extended to involve a vacant farmer's market on the first floor. In the aftermath of this fire, 250 garment workers joined the ranks of the unemployed.

A new fire alarm central office was opened on the eighth floor of City Hall on April 13, 1934. The new facility replaced the old fire alarm office on Haddon Avenue at the former City Hall building which was opened during the previous century. The new facility remained in operation until 1977 when fire communication services were transferred to a regional central office for the entire County of Camden.

Erected just six months earlier as the City's newest movie house, the Broadway Theater on Broadway near Federal Street, center city, was an ornate design in the art deco style of the period. A prominent marquee embellished in gold trim, the grand facade above replete in ceramic portals and scrolls amid imposing gargoyles, ''The Broadway" was what historians today call "the lost movie palaces of the past". At 4 A.M. on April 29, 1934, a night watchman discovered the stage curtain aflame in the auditorium. By the time fire companies arrived, the building was heavily involved. Second and third alarms were quickly transmitted as high winds whipped the flames out over Broadway to expose adjoining stores and apartment buildings opposite the fire. Heavy fire conditions caused members to withdraw from the interior of the theater just in time, as roof and parapets collapsed inward. Chief Lennox directed companies coming in on the third alarm to stretch big lines to the roof of the Myers & Lappin Building across Broadway, and develop heavy streams on the fire.

The blaze occurred only hours before capacity crowds were expected to view a matinee and guest appearance by "Hoot Gibson", a noted cowboy personality. Gibson put in his appearance in spite of the ruins and spoke with the many fans who came to see him, expressing regret that the theater had been destroyed. The Broadway opened in November 1933 amid a gala celebration and much fanfare. It's inaugural film was a movie titled Broken Dreams. The fire was contained to the original property with losses estimated at $85,000.

On July 5, 1934, a School of Instruction for fire service training was organized at Fire Headquarters, Fifth & Arch Streets. The school was staffed by a Fire Officer and an Assistant Drillmaster. A hose tower was modified for use as a drill tower in the rear yard, with converted classroom space in the basement of the building.

Sergeant George Lee of the New York Shipyard Police discovered a fire in a 200 x 70 foot warehouse on October 4, 1935. As he transmitted the initial alarm from the power house, other yard employees also reported the blaze to security at the main gate. Box 312 was pulled by the officer at the Broadway gate at 12:45 A.M. Chief Lennox ordered a third alarm on his arrival as fire roared from large roof ventilators. Stored at the south end of the warehouse were large quantities of benzene, gasoline and other explosive cleaning solvents. Fire fighters pressed an all out attack and prevented the blaze from spreading to these inflammable stores. Fireman William Merrigan of Engine Company 10 was buried under a falling partition wall. He was rescued by other members of his unit, who had themselves narrowly escaped the collapse. As the wind shifted, acid fumes were carried to a large crowd of spectators causing some panic. Under severe radiant heat, the fronts of fifteen dwellings on the east side of Broadway between Lester and Gordon Terrace became seriously exposed. These properties were saved only through the tenacious efforts of Camden's Bravest. Within forty-five minutes the spectacular blaze was contained to the warehouse but not before imposing a $50,000 property loss.

Organized in 1920 and following just sixteen years of service to the far regions of South Camden, Ladder Company 4 at 2500 Morgan Boulevard was disbanded on July 5, 1936 as a measure of fiscal constraint during the throes of the Great Depression.

There were just five Greater Alarms for 1937, none of which went beyond a second alarm assignment.

Near midnight on February 4, 1937, Ladder Company 2 rescued a woman and new born baby from a blazing building at Box 358, Locust Street and Kaighn Avenue, South Camden. The infant survived but the mother succumbed to severe smoke inhalation.

At 9:30 P.M. on Monday, March 25, 1937,a second alarm was transmitted for Box 34 at Broadway and Kaighn Avenue, South Camden for a basement fire in a shoe store that extended to the loft above. Deputy Chief of Department Walter Mertz was seriously injured in a twenty foot fall from a roof of an exposure under heavy smoke conditions. He sustained a broken back with some partial paralysis.

At 2:30 in the afternoon on Saturday, May 1, 1937, off duty Fireman Getner of Engine Company 11 rescued a woman and her nine day old from a smoky blaze in frame dwelling on 18th Street near River Avenue, Cramer Hill before the arrival of companies. Both victims survived.

Near 8 P.M. on Sunday, May 30, 1937, Engine Company 2 and Ladder Company 1 were special called to the Pennsylvania side of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge to extinguish an extension fire involving wooden railroad ties on the bridge line. The track bed was ignited by embers originating from a big pier fire on the Philadelphia waterfront.

 There were six Greater Alarms during 1938, two of which were third alarm incidents.

On the evening of January 10, 1938 around 8:30 P.M., Box 373 was transmitted for Third and Spruce Streets, South Camden. The fire originated in a rag shop and communicated to an adjoining junkyard near Locust and Cherry Streets. Three alarms were pulled for this blaze which produced spectacular smoke conditions visible for miles around.  

On February 9, 1938 seven men were overcome by gas in a railroad tank car at the old Pavonia car shop, Twenty-fourth street and Sherman Avenue, fortunately, a quick response averted any fatalitis. This near-tragedy prompted Public Safety Director Mary Walsh Kobus to order additional fire fighting and rescue equipment, including gas masks, oxygen tanks, inhalators, grappling hooks to be used in drowning cases, a large type life net, additional chemical generators for combating gasoline and oil fires, and "wind breakers" for fire apparatus not equipped with windshields was authorized.

Shortly after 1 A.M. on March 28th, Box 34 at Broadway and Kaighn Avenue was transmitted for another third alarm involving a four story commercial building on Broadway. The ground floor was occupied by the McCrory five and dime with a hat factory and office space on the floors above. The fire started in the basement and fed upon heavy merchandise extending to the upper floors. Tremendous smoke conditions blanketed the South Camden area as units were kept from entering the building for nearly four hours. Three members were treated for severe smoke inhalation.

An especially tough blaze occurred near Seventh Street and Kaighn Avenue, South Camden at 6:30 P.M. on Wednesday, December 21, 1938. A verbal alarm at the quarters of Engine Company 8 turned both units out for heavy smoke pushing from a two-story tire shop. The exterior walls on both floors of the building were fortified by heavy gauge sheet metal which posed serious forcible entry problems. The blaze communicated to an adjoining Chinese Restaurant as a second alarm was transmitted. An additional ladder company was special called above the second alarm to relieve exhausted members who were punished by the arduous forcible entry and ventilation at this fortified property.

An ever active area for serious fires, Box 34 at Broadway and Kaighn Avenue was again transmitted near 4:30 A.M. on January 31,1939. A cellar fire in a drug store produced acrid smoke conditions as the fire extended to adjoining properties. First arriving units rescued several persons over ladders from the upper floors. A second alarm assignment was summoned to control this blaze.

At 2:30 in the afternoon on Saturday, March 4th, Box 376 at Eighth Street and Kaighn Avenue was transmitted for a fire at 781 Warnock Place, South Camden. A kerosene stove exploded in an occupied dwelling trapping a woman and her four day old baby upstairs. The woman dropped the infant from the second floor window into the arms of a neighbor and then jumped, breaking her leg as the window behind her filled with roaring flame.

On Thursday, June 29, 1939 at 7 P.M., a three alarm blaze destroyed a warehouse near 15th and Federal Streets, East Camden. Spectacular smoke and fire conditions for over two hours resulted in more than $100,000 in property loss.

On August 11th, another third alarm from Box 216 heavily involved a junk yard and extended to nearby dwellings at 18th and Federal Streets, East Camden.

The evening of November 10thwas a particularly busy tour. Shortly after 6 P.M., units of the 1st Battalion rescued several children over ladders from the top floor of a three-story building at 320 Market Street, center city. Near 6:30 P.M. just one block away, another working fire heavily damaged a three-story commercial building at 324 Arch Street. A few minutes later, yet another serious blaze occurred near 29th Street and River Road, Cramer Hill, involving a big occupied frame.

On November 28, around 7:30 A.M., a smoky second alarm for Box 214 at 26th and Federal Streets, East Camden, involved an A&P Supermarket. On November 25th near 2:30 A.M., Box 215 was transmitted for a working fire near 26th Street and River Avenue, Cramer Hill. Firemen Getner and Peterson of Engine Company 11 rescued a man and woman from a heavily involved frame building with a barber shop on the ground floor.


The 1940's were to be years of extraordinary change, not only in the City of Camden but throughout the country. As the decade began, war was raging both in Europe and on the Chinese mainland. The United States was emerging from the Depression years to become the" Arsenal of Democracy". Soon the nation would become fully entrenched in these wars and, with victory in both Europe and the Pacific, would have to deal with a new post-war era.

The war years would bring economic prosperity to Camden. Its factories and shipyards worked around the clock to produce the materials needed to fight the war. Bombing raids on London and the menacing presence of German submarines off the coasts of New Jersey and Delaware, triggered concern that the continental United States itself might be subject to enemy attack.

 A Civil Defense agency was established, with thousands of volunteer air raid wardens, auxiliary police and firemen, heavy rescue workers and first aid personnel, trained to support the professionals in the event of attack.

While Camden prepared to fight the new enemy, an old enemy, fire, continued to take its toll in lives and property. The decade opened with one of the worst fires in City history.

On Tuesday, July 30, 1940, a fire broke out at the R.M. Hollingshead plant, an industrial complex of large factory buildings at Tenth and Market Streets in center city. The plant manufactured a variety of highly inflammable products including floor wax, furniture polish, and cigarette lighter fluid.

The City had been suffering through a two week heat wave, with temperatures soaring over the 100 degree mark. Box 61 at Ninth and Penn Streets was transmitted at 1:15 P.M. following an explosion in the northeast corner of a five story factory building. Just two minutes later, Box 184 at Eleventh and Cooper Streets was also pulled for the same incident. A raging fire ensued and the fourth alarm was received at 1:39P.M. Camden Mayor George Brunner made an urgent call to Philadelphia Mayor Lamberton asking for help. Mayor Lamberton at once called his Public Safety Commissioner, James H. Malone, ordering Philadelphia to "Give Camden all the help she needs - now!" Malone relayed the order to Deputy Chief Engineer William Simmer and within two minutes, Philadelphia Fire Companies were rolling over the bridge. Thirteen minutes later they were pumping water on the fire. At that time, Philadelphia was using two-piece engine companies with hose wagons and pumpers. Units of the Philadelphia Fire Department that initially responded were Engine Companies 8, 17, 21, 27 and 33, with Trucks 9 and 23.

Tremendous radiant heat generated by the blaze, coupled with a water shortage caused by heavy demand during the heat wave, made effective firefighting especially difficult. Engine companies were forced to draft water from the Cooper River, one-half mile away from the fire. Worse, some 28 explosions rocked the plant as stores of gasoline, naptha, paint and grease were ignited. The fire spread to involve other factory buildings in the Hollingshead complex, and also extended to scores of surrounding dwellings and businesses.

The fire burned throughout the night and into the following day. The next morning explosive experts had to be called in to dynamite the ruins allowing firemen to get at the remaining fire and finally bring the inferno under control.

The fire again flared on Thursday and it was not until Sunday, five days after the initial blast, that the blaze was finally extinguished. Ten employees of the plant were killed in this fire as well as Fireman William Merrigan of Engine Company 3 who died of heat exhaustion. Over 400 persons were left homeless and damage exceeded $1 million dollars.

An interesting postscript to this fire was told in a story by the late Battalion Chief John Letts, who at the time of the fire was not yet a member of the Department. The late Chief, a former employee of RCA, was on his lunch hour walking with a co-worker near Ninth and Market Streets when the blast occurred. The force of the blast sent the man out the window and backward across the street where he sailed through the plate glass window of a first floor barber shop, opposite the factory. The late Chief ran the distance to the shop and found the victim laying on the floor bleeding heavily. The story goes that in the process of flying backward through the window, the razor sharp glass acted as a guillotine and amputated both of the man's ears. The startled barber had the presence of mind to grab a pair of dusty, fur lined earmuffs that had been hanging on a wall hook in the shop over several previous winters. With the help of a customer, the barber placed the muffs over the victim's bloody head where his ears had been, and secured it tightly with a roll of masking tape.

This action by the quick thinking barber effectively stemmed the flow of blood as the poor man was rushed to the hospital.

Further devastation had been avoided when some unidentified youths climbed aboard a train of steaming tank cars parked on a rail siding adjacent to the complex, and opened the hatches relieving pressure upon thousands of gallons of heated naptha. Grateful neighbors reported the heroic action of the teens to a nearby Policeman. When the officer called to the youths, they quickly fled the scene. Because the Policeman was unable to get their names, the boys could not be recognized for their brave deed.

More than 50 years following this incident and while conducting research, Department Historian Mr. Lee T. Ryan discovered the information and realized that one of the boys in question was his own father. Indeed many years before, the historian had overheard his father reminiscing with friends.

Lee E. Ryan described that same incident in which he had participated. He said that he and his friends had heard onlookers expressing fears of further explosions which prompted him and his companions to react by opening the hatch covers. When called by the Policeman, they had run away fearing they were in trouble. Fire Fighter James Ryan of Engine Company 6 is the grandson of Mr. Lee E. Ryan, that brave youth from so long ago.

At 7 P.M. on January 17, 1940, Box 37 at Mt. Ephraim and Kaighn Avenues was transmitted for a verbal alarm received by Engine Company 7 for a fire at Orchard and Sycamore Street, South Camden. A second alarm was soon pulled for row frame dwellings as many frozen hydrants hampered operations.

Members worked among numerous hydrants with thawing devices before adequate water was finally obtained. On January 22nd, another second alarm hampered by frozen hydrants heavily damaged a wallpaper store at street level and a transient hotel on the floors above. Box 127 at Front and Market Streets was transmitted for this fire. On June 20th near 9:30 A.M., a third alarm at Haddon Avenue and Line Street, South Camden, heavily damaged a livery warehouse. The building measured sixty feet high, 75 feet wide and 300 feet deep. At the time of the fire, one hundred automobiles, more than half of which were brand new, were stored in the building. All of the vehicles were saved as firemen drove car after car, out of the burning warehouse under heavy smoke conditions.

Near 10 P.M. on Wednesday, July 31, 1940, the night following the Hollingshead conflagration, a second alarm was pulled for Box 312 at Broadway and Morgan Streets in the New York Shipyard. A smoky fire originating in the boiler room of the Seaplane Tender Curtis, extended to the overhead funnels and scaffolding while docked in Wet Slip #6. While much of the Department was still operating at the Hollingshead ruins on Cooper Street, the second alarm at the shipyard was answered by mutual aid units from the municipalities of Audubon, Gloucester, Haddon Heights, Merchantville and Woodlynne.

During the early morning hours of Friday, October 11, 1940, a verbal alarm at the quarters of Engine 9 reported a big twin frame going through the roof at 33rd Street and Westfield Avenue, East Camden. A second alarm was transmitted on arrival as the fire heavily damaged both properties occupied by the Eleventh Ward Democrat Club. On November 19th, shortly after 2 P.M., another second alarm broke out in the cargo hold of the Battleship South Dakota at the New York Shipyard. Firemen rescued eighteen workmen from below decks who were overcome by heavy smoke.

The Hollingshead conflagration of July 1940 was only the prelude to a very busy decade for the Department. The winter and spring of ' 41 were particularly active.

Shortly after 9:30 A.M. on Sunday, January 12, 1941, Box 64 at Fifth and Benson Streets was pulled for an occupied apartment building on Benson near West Street. The blaze originated on the first floor when gasoline being used as cleaning solvent ignited a flash fire. A woman and a baby were found overcome in a first floor hall while two men and a woman were also trapped on the second floor. Upon arriving, firemen quickly raised ladders and rescued the occupants from the upper floor while removing the woman and infant to Cooper Hospital for smoke inhalation.

At 8 P.M. on January 15th, Box 374 at Sixth and Spruce Streets was transmitted for a phone alarm reporting a dwelling at 838 Division Street, South Camden. Arriving fire fighters found nothing and following a search of the neighborhood, declared the incident a false alarm. Some thirteen minutes later, 374 Box was again transmitted, now reporting the address of 638 Division Street, more than two blocks from the previous location. This time, units found a three-story frame heavily involved with fire extending to adjoining properties. The wrong address had caused the blaze to gain considerable headway. A second alarm assignment was required.

On January 15, 1941, units of the Third Battalion had just taken up from a Second alarm at the Lipper and Kurman Dress Factory at Fourth Street and Kaighn Avenue, South Camden. A top floor fire in the three story loft was controlled within an hour. At 8: 15P.M., another second alarm occurred where members rescued two children from a blazing apartment near Sixth and Division Streets, South Camden.

On February 16th at 6:30 A.M., a passing milkman turned in the alarm for an explosion and fire in an occupied dwelling at 28th Street and Adams Avenue, Cramer Hill. A father and son were killed in this fire resulting from a faulty oil burner, while a second son was critically burned but survived. 

On March 2nd at 9:30 P.M., Deputy Chief Walter Mertz transmitted a second alarm for a heavily involved frame dwelling at Clinton and Henry Streets, South Camden, when fire communicated to the roof of the adjoining Camden Chemical Company. This extension was quickly extinguished.

On Monday, March 10, 1941, a fire near Seventh and Pine Streets, South Camden, nearly claimed the life of the occupant. Acting Captain John Naylor and Fireman Joseph A. Gfrorer of Ladder Company 2, rescued a woman from the floor above under punishing conditions. The victim was removed by portable ladder with the assistance of Fireman Herman Baker.

On March 18, 1941, firemen arrived at a working fire in a vacant dwelling at Chelton Avenue and Mulford Street, South Camden. As members were extinguishing the blaze, Fireman William Comerford discovered a moonshine still on the second floor. The building had been a contraband whiskey factory. Acting Chief Leonard Megee summoned police who confiscated fifteen gallons of stock.

Later that Tuesday, units of the Second Battalion rescued two small children from a blazing dwelling at 32nd Street and Merriel Avenue, East Camden

On Wednesday, March 19th, companies responded to the New York Shipyard on lower Broadway below Morgan Street for yet another fire aboard the new Battleship South Dakota. Upon arrival, members found the fire quickly extinguished by the yard's fire brigade with no reportable damage. Another fire on the same ship during the previous November resulted in nearly a score of men being overcome from fumes originating from a smoldering oxy-acetylene hose left in the hull. Ever mindful of sabotage, yard officials emphasized that both incidents were accidental in nature, following careful investigations. 

A week later on March 26, 1941, another accidental fire on the main deck of the unfinished, ten-thousand ton Cruiser Columbia, was quickly extinguished by Camden Fire Fighters without remarkable damage. 

On April 5th another second alarm heavily damaged a Cocktail Lounge at Broadway and Spruce Streets. Firemen feared that the blaze might spread to the adjoining Towers Theater. An aggressive attack quickly brought the fire under control, causing only minor water damage to the grand old movie house. 

On April 15th, yet another second alarm for seven row frames on Central Avenue near Kossuth Street, South Camden, occurred as eighteen persons were driven to the street.

On Sunday afternoon, April 20, 1941, the Department provided unusual mutual aid services to two different communities in Burlington and Ocean Counties. Shortly after 2:30 P.M., Engine Company 6 relocated to Lakewood, New Jersey and covered the local fire station during a huge forest fire in Ocean County. Later that afternoon at 4 P.M., Engine Company 9 was special called to Taunton Lakes, New Jersey for another forest fire extended to a residential area. Engine 9 stretched a supply line from a Woodbury pumper and saved a row of six frame dwellings. Both units returned to the City later that Sunday evening.

Shortly after 7 A.M. on May 23, 1941, a Box was transmitted for a fire at West and Clinton Streets, South Camden. Arriving companies found a three-story commercial building with fire roaring one hundred feet into the sky. A second alarm was transmitted on arrival, followed by third and fourth alarms ordered by Chief John Lennox. The building contained a food market on the ground floor and a clothing factory above. At the height of the blaze, Firemen Clarence McMullen and James Creato narrowly escaped with their lives after a burst of flame nearly enveloped them as they forced an interior door to a shaft. Both members fought their way out under the cover of hose streams directed by their comrades. Chief of Department Lennox and four firemen while at the far end of the blazing building on West Street, heard the shrill cries for help coming from a nearby dwelling. Racing into the home of Mrs. Elizabeth O'Hanlon at 423 Clinton Street, they found an excited albeit unscathed parrot, in a kitchen birdcage still crying for help. The bird was carried to safety by the firemen. The blaze was brought under control at 10:30 A.M. but not before heavily damaging the block long building. 

On May 25, 1941, a tough, smoky second alarm at the Giordano Waste Material Company, Second and Pine Streets, South Camden, kept members busy for hours.

On June 3rd, a third alarm for a basement fire in the Whitehill's Department Store at Broadway and Spruce Streets filled all five floors of the building with heavy smoke. 

On June 11th, an explosion and fire at the Crystal commercial laundry plant in South Camden killed one employee and injured three others.

A story in the Courier Post of August 14, 1941, reported that the Department used a new piece of equipment for the first time while extinguishing a blaze near Seventh and Chestnut Streets, South Camden. This new appliance enabled firemen to connect two leads of inch and one-half hose to the larger two and one-half inch line, thereby providing two independent streams of water and allowing firemen to access areas they previously had difficulty reaching. Acting Chief Leonard Magee praised this new device called the wye, and predicted its widespread use in the future.

On August 20, 1941 shortly after 3 A.M., Box 351 at Fillmore Street and Chelton Avenue was transmitted for a fire at the Camden Brewery. First arriving units found fire showing in a three-story building housing the pumping plant. A second alarm was quickly ordered as thousands of workers At the nearby New York Shipyard on Broadway, watched firemen stage a successful fight in preventing the fire from extending to the adjoining eight-story Brewery building.

On September 2, 1941, a thunderous explosion at the powerhouse of the RCA complex at Delaware Avenue and Cooper Street rocked the South Jersey area, resulting in two injuries and stirring excitement among 8,000 workers at nearby plants and industries. Over three-thousand RCA employees, mostly women, were routed from Buildings #10 and # 13 by an automatic fire alarm. Fire fighters had the blaze under control in an hour. The blast was caused when tons of saw dust in a huge tubular conveyor atop the four-story powerhouse, ignited.

On September 3rd companies extinguished a fire in the cargo hold of the Government Ship "The Net Tender Teak" while under construction in the Mathis Shipyards, North Camden

On September 9th, a third alarm for a clothing store at 1122 Broadway, South Camden, finished out a busy week.

On Halloween, October 31, 1941, units were kept busy with accidental blazes including two working fires - one at Sixth Street and Newton Avenue, South Camden and another at Wildwood and Princess Avenues, Parkside. Both fires were caused by paper-mache pumpkins containing lighted candles. Interestingly, there were no reported fire incidents associated with "Mischief Night" activities that would become so prevalent in later years.

On Saturday, November 22nd, an elderly woman burned to death in a hot, vicious fire at Front and Danenhower Streets, North Camden; and on Thanksgiving Day, November 25th, a spectacular third alarm destroyed the Adams Furniture Warehouse at Locust Street and Kaighn Avenue, South Camden. At 3:45 A.M. a milkman discovered the fire and flagged down a passing police car who sounded the alarm. 3rd Battalion Chief Laurence Newton as the first arriving unit, found heavy fire gaining headway in the building and quickly transmitted a second alarm. Chief of Department Lennox would transmit a third alarm and while the warehouse was heavily damaged, firemen prevented the blaze from extending to nearby dwellings.

On November 28, 1941, a working fire at 23rd and High Streets, East Camden injured one civilian and two fire fighters; and on December 3rd, another Greater Alarm destroyed four row dwellings on Chelton Avenue near Sixth Street, South Camden.


The Second World War placed heavy demands upon the Department. Many members entered the armed forces and the real threat of enemy attack compelled the Fire Administration to develop new organizational approaches, and operational techniques. Supplemental manpower needs were met through the new Civil Defense Corps and the organization of the Auxiliary Fire Force.

One member of the first class of thirty auxiliary firemen to enter the School of Instruction was W. Earl Doan of 533 Elm Street, North Camden. Mr. Doan remained active in the auxiliary force well into the late nineteen-sixties. Also an avid fire buff, Earl never missed an opportunity to turnout at Greater Alarms with the Fire Canteen. At the age of 87 (in 1994) he currently makes his home in Collingswood, N.J. and even now, he may be seen attending major fires throughout the area.

During 1941 while anticipating a heavy water demand in the event of enemy attack, the city water system was interconnected with the adjoining municipality of Pennsauken Township. A thirty inch water main was constructed along River Road to tie the Pennsauken Pumping Station into the Camden system.

Another measure of defense readiness concerned the use of air raid warning devices for public notification. Air raid sirens were installed on the roofs of local industries, businesses and public buildings as well as firehouses.  

Tthe sense of increased urgency was evident in a municipal directive issued By Public Safety Commissioner Mary W. Kobus in 1942 stating: "If an Emergency signal is received from the United States Arms Information Center advising local defense officials that an air raid is imminent, all fire apparatus and other emergency vehicles will be placed on the apron in front of their respective quarters and their sirens, exhaust whistles or other audio devices shall be sounded as an air raid warning".

A number of Federal Decrees were also enacted regulating public conduct in the event of air raid warnings. With the sounding of alarms, all civilian traffic must stop and everyone must seek shelter. One new Federal Regulation prohibited fire apparatus from using sirens in response to alarms. Under war-time regulations, sirens would be reserved exclusively for air raid warnings.

The use of audible warning devices by fire apparatus was restricted to bells only. The burden to both fire fighters and the public safety was formidable. On March 1, 1942, the inevitable happened. Engine Company 8 while responding to an alarm was involved in a collision with a ten ton truck at Third Street and Kaighn Avenue. Upon impact all of the firemen were thrown into the street. The truck driver declared that he failed to hear the bells of the approaching apparatus. The mishap resulted in injuries to six members and total destruction of the apparatus. Captain Alvin Thompson was listed in critical condition, while Firemen Mitchell Wojkowiak, Philip Farrow, Leonard Oshushek, Lawrence Boulton and Edwin Robbins were admitted for lesser injuries. Battalion Chief Newton stated that he believed the accident might have been avoided if fire companies were not prohibited from using sirens. 

On the same day another mishap occurred at Ninth Street and Ferry Avenue when Engine 3 was struck by an automobile, the motorist stating that he heard the bell but thought the apparatus was somewhere behind him. A week later Ladder Company 2 was involved in yet another crash at Tenth Street and Kaighn Avenue when the motorist said he did not hear the apparatus coming.

The war-time regulations would continue to hamper the Department for the next three years. Deputy Chief Charles Erickson registered a complaint with Commissioner Rhone to see what could be done about lifting the ban.

Likewise, Chief of Department Lennox, also a member of the Civil Defense Council, complained to Rhone that something must be done. "The Department is seriously short handed as we had fifteen members on medical leave when the accident occurred. Firemen continue to be called into the Armed Forces and the situation has become serious. While we are training 600 new Auxiliary Firemen, such training takes time and it will be sometime until the job is completed". Conditions did not improve as additional government rules were enacted. In addition to the ban on sirens, fire apparatus would also be prohibited from using warning lights and headlights while responding to alarms under "blackout" conditions. Companies were required to use a blue shield over headlights and cautiously respond at low speeds without warning devices. And the war raged on.

On January 5, 1942, members extinguished a smoky fire below decks on the light cruiser Santa Fe, under construction at the New York Shipyard. The blaze was caused by welder's torches and was made especially arduous for firemen in the absence of masks and breathing apparatus.

On January 10th, a Box was transmitted for a structural fire at Congress and Republic Roads, Fairview. Companies found a fully involved shed in the rear. This structure was one of the City's first Air Raid Shelters, erected by a home owner to be used in the event of Enemy Attack. 

On February 23rd, fire fighters rescued two men over ladders from the third floor of a rooming house near Seventh and Market Streets, while six other occupants fled to safety. Fire Dispatcher James Burke on his way to work saw a youth pulling the Alarm Box at Eighth and Market Streets. Burke quickly seized the boy who he thought was sounding a false alarm. He immediately released the youth upon learning that there was an actual fire in progress, and proceeded to the address to help awaken sleeping occupants and evacuate the building.

On March 14, 1942, a civilian ran to the quarters of Engine Company 1 and reported a verbal alarm for an explosion and fire at the Lester Clothing and Jewelry Store, Broadway and Pine Streets Upon arrival, Acting Deputy Chief William Van Pfefferle transmitted a second alarm for heavy fire on two floors.

It took fire fighters nearly two hours to gain control of the blaze with damage estimates exceeding $100,000. One member, Fireman Stephen Szwak of Engine Company 8, was removed from the scene for an injury.

 The headlines of the Courier Post for March 24, 1942, read "Six Flee As Heroic Fire Chief Shuts Gas Off Amid Flames". A second alarm for Constitution and Argus Roads, Fairview, was transmitted for a fire in two dwellings. Chief Laurence Newton of the 3rd Battalion was credited with preventing a potential "conflagration" when he dashed into a burning building and turned off a leaking gas pipe that was feeding the flames. This action of course, by Department standards was little more than routine, but to the media and citizens at the scene of the fire, Chief Newton was deserving of remarkable praise.

On April 3rd, units of the 1st Battalion were responding to an alarm at Point and Erie Streets, North Camden. A group of children were on their way to a birthday party for nine-year-old, Betty Mogck. The group of excited birthday celebrants, hearing the fire engines coming, ran into the street to see where they were going. As Engine Company 2 was making the turn at Erie Street, the Chauffeur, Fireman Harry Kleinfelder pulled hard on the wheel to avoid running over the children but not before striking little Betty Mogck. The apparatus swerved to the side of the street, sheared off a utility pole and came to rest on the pavement. Two members were hurled to the ground, slightly injured. Betty's older brother, John, was down the block talking with friends and came running up the street. Betty Mogck was rushed to Cooper Hospital suffering from a broken leg. Firemen William Hopkins and Harry Haines were treated for bruises and released. Years later, Betty's brother, John J. Mogck, Jr. would himself enter the Department and rise from the ranks of Probationary Fireman to retire as Chief of Department.


Prior to 1955, the Department did not have the services of two-way radio communications. Units that left the firehouse in response to alarms, remained out of service until they returned to quarters. Upon arriving at the scene, companies would have to contact the Fire Dispatcher via residential telephone or from the nearest alarm box. At the scene of serious fires, the Chief would dispatch his aide to the nearest street box to transmit a second alarm or special calls via a telegraph key inside the box. A preliminary signal of two taps followed by the box number would summon a second alarm and three taps for a third alarm.

The preliminary signal known as the three threes would transmit a general alarm for the entire Department except for the far regions of East Camden and Cramer Hill. For all boxes east of the Cooper River, a preliminary signal known as the two threes would transmit a modified general alarm response summoning a lesser number of units.

Telegraph Signa12-3121 would transmit a second alarm for Box 3121 at Collings and Atlanta Roads, Fairview. Signal 3-416 would summon a third alarm to Box 416 at 2nd and Pine Streets; Signal 4-393 would transmit a fourth alarm for Box 393 at Front and Mt. Vernon Streets; Signal 3-3-3-95 would transmit a general alarm for Box 95 at Broadway and Clinton Streets; and Signal 3-3-253 would transmit a general alarm east of the Cooper River for Box 253 at 34th Street and Fremont Avenue, East Camden.

Special Calls for individual units were transmitted from the field by alarm box telegraph key. Five taps would indicate an engine; six taps a hook & ladder; seven taps a chief; eight taps a hose or chemical company; and nine taps a fuel wagon. The preliminary signal often taps would indicate a special call followed by the type of unit needed, the level of the alarm, and finally the box number. Signal 10-6-4-181 would special call an additional ladder company on the fourth Alarm to Box 181 at Point and York Streets, North Camden. The Aide would tap the telegraph key ten times followed by a pause, followed by six taps and a pause, followed by four taps and a pause, followed by one tap with a pause, eight taps and a pause, and finally one more tap to complete the box number. The Fire Alarm Dispatcher would decipher this signal and transmit the special call via telephone to the assigned unit.

On April 4, 1942, the Police and Fire Departments announced a cooperative venture whereby a police car would respond to every fire alarm to provide rapid radio communications. Later in 1955, police radios would be installed in all Chief s vehicles, and by 1961 every apparatus in the Department would be equipped with mobile radio communications on a dedicated fire frequency.

Upon acquiring a dedicated radio frequency, the Department adopted for use a series of radio code signals intended to promote brevity in voice communications. Each signal by definition identified the type of alarm received or the unit status of responding companies. When the dispatch was announced the ONE-ONE Signal, responding units were directed to return to headquarters. The ONE-THREE Signal indicated a false alarm and the ONE-FOUR Signal a mistaken alarm. The most commonly used codes concerned the most frequently occurring incidents. A Signal TWO-FOUR was announced for structural fires; the TWO-SEVEN Signal for vehicles; a TWO-EIGHT for outside rubbish fires and the TWO-NINE for grass. When units made themselves available for service, they transmitted a Signal FIVE- TWO and when they went out of service for administrative purposes, the FIVE-ONE Signal was announced. And when units acknowledged receipt of radio messages, they responded by stating TEN-FOUR. In later years, the system of signals would be abandoned in favor of conventional language communications.

Before the days of radio communications, fire alarms in the City Camden were transmitted to fire companies in two ways. Department telephone for still alarms; and over the primary and secondary circuits using gong and register to transmit box alarms. The term "Fire Board" originated from the old PBX switchboard that served as the principal piece of communications equipment in the fire alarm central office for use in dispatching fire companies. The dispatcher would plug the PBX jack into the switchboard call the appropriate firehouse. A long slow ring was used for non-emergency calling. A series of short fast rings known as the "jingle" was used to alert the Housewatchman of an incoming alarm.

Prior to the adoption of the automated Gamewell transmitter, Boxes were transmitted over the primary circuit by manual telegraph key. A four round transmission for Box 396 required seventy-two "blows" on the joker key to transact the alarm. Indeed in some cities where Box 9990 was manually transmitted over the primary circuit, the telegraph key was punched one-hundred and forty-eight times. Experienced Fire Dispatchers became quite proficient in manual telegraph operations. Following mechanical automation, the Gamewell transmitter on both the primary and secondary circuits did much of the work for attending dispatchers, but posed some special problems not previously associated with manual operations.

All fire companies in the City of Camden maintained a unit status board that "kept score" of the availability of all companies citywide. When a Box was released over the automated transmitter to firehouses, the Housewatchman would decipher the incoming signal, reference the index file determine location of the Box and the company assigned, and then consult the status board. If the first alarm companies were out of service or operating elsewhere, second alarm units would automatically respond to fill out the first alarm. As units became available, the dispatcher notified each firehouse by telephone to change the status board accordingly. For example if Box 396 was transmitted, the first alarm units would turnout. If the dispatcher sent out the same Box a second time, particularly within a short period of time following the first transmission, the status board would of course show the first alarm units already committed and this subsequent transmission would routinely be construed as a second alarm for that Box.

During peak periods of high fire activity when the dispatcher was holding as many as five and six Boxes preparing to transmit each one in successive order, the automated transmitter demanded special attention. If the previous Box was not cleared from the transmitter, the dispatcher ran the risk of erroneously sending it out a second time, especially if distracted. Fire  Dispatchers were taught to religiously exercise the sequential method of ~ "SET-DUMP-CLEAR" for every alarm transaction. The numerical identity of the Box would be set up on the transmitter; the transmission  punched to dump the Box from the transmitter on to the circuit; and after four rounds were completed, the clearance key would be depressed clearing the automated transmitter for the next alarm. The erroneous transmission of the same Box for a second time was not a concern under the old manual system as dispatchers processed each individual alarm by telegraph key with  virtually no chance of redundant error. Indeed, some improvements in technology did not come without additional demands. In any event, by 1968 the adoption of a hard wire voice alarm and radio communications as the principal means for transmitting alarms, supplanted the use of gong and register circuits.

On April 5, 1942, Fireman Frank Iannelli of Engine Company 9 made the Supreme Sacrifice in the performance of his duties while protecting life and property in the City of Camden.

On May 14, 1942, fire fighters worked for over an hour to rescue a fifteen-year old boy buried under the collapse of a vacant building at Ninth & Pearl Streets, North Camden. Over a ton and one-half of debris covered the youth who was trapped in a void. The boy was removed to Cooper Hospital where he miraculously survived the ordeal while being treated for cuts, bruises and leg injuries.  

On May 21st, Firemen Irving Bishop and Austin Marks of Ladder Company 2 rescued an unconscious woman from a burning building on Locust Street near Kaighn Avenue, South Camden. 

On September 17th, yet another fire at the New York Shipyard broke out in the engine room of the aircraft carrier Independence. A welder's torch was again to blame as firemen took a shellacking below decks, under heavy smoke conditions. Later that same day a domestic dispute at Sixth and Division Streets resulted in a serious fire that threatened a number of row frame dwellings. A husband threw a lighted kerosene lamp at his spouse, missed and set the building ablaze. The ensuing effort by fire fighters saved the block while the man was arrested and later jailed for sixty days.

On November 19, 1942, a spectacular third alarm with numerous special calls for a paper warehouse at Front Street and Kaighn Avenue, South Camden, took five hours to control. There were so many apparatus and hose lines clogging the streets surrounding the fire, that ferry service on the Delaware River had to be shut down delaying thousands of employees from Pennsylvania on their way to work at several Camden War Defense Plants.

On December 22nd, a stubborn third alarm at the Armstrong Cork Works, Jefferson Street and the Delaware River South Camden, summoned fire boats from the City of Philadelphia. The production building faced the river where  corkboard was baked in super heated steam ovens and processed as insulation.

At the height of the fire, Captain George Saunders of Engine Company 6 suffered a heart attack while advancing a line to the third floor. He was removed to Cooper Hospital where he later recovered. Chief of Department Lennox commended all units on their work in saving the large factory.

The New Year of 1943 was ushered in with a second alarm on January 2nd, for Master Street near Ferry Avenue. The fire extended to involve three vacant buildings. Engine Company 3 first due on the Box was delayed by a long, slow moving freight train at a grade crossing. The 6:30 A.M. blaze was fought in frigid temperatures and the Salvation Army Canteen under the direction of Major Harrison, was special called to service the frozen fire fighters.

On January 12th, the Department answered twenty alarms in a twenty-four hour period. Deputy Chief Walter Mertz stated that it was the busiest 24 hour period in recent history. There were one hundred alarms in the City during the first ten days of the new' year while the monthly average was usually 112 alarms. The following day on January 13th, another second alarm at the Cooper School, Third and Linden Streets, would heavily damage the 71 year-old structure and leave 500 students without classrooms. The building was erected in 1871 and condemned as a fire trap in 1940. The property was subsequently modernized in 1942 under W.P.A. Yet another second alarm for a school occurred on January 22nd at the Stevens Public School, Fourth and Berkley Streets, South Camden. The blaze broke out in a basement storage room shortly after 9 A.M. The building erected in 1867 sustained moderate damage. 

On January 29, 1943,a barking dog was credited with saving the lives of five occupants who were overcome by coal gas fumes at their residence on 36th Street near Fremont Avenue, East Camden. Attending firemen, trained in first aid, worked for over one-half hour before two unconscious men were revived. The alert canine was also saved.

On the morning of February 8th, the dispatcher struck the Box for a reported building at Sixth and Van Hook Streets, South Camden. Arriving first due, 3rd Battalion Chief Laurence Newton was greeted in the street by a hysterical woman screaming that her baby was trapped on the second floor. The Chief bounded into the building and made his way up the smoke filled stairway. He pushed into a rear bedroom off the stairs and found the child in its crib, the adjoining bed ablaze with fire lapping up the walls. Chief Newton carried the boy to safety just as the first due engine was arriving. 3rd Battalion Aide, Fireman Anthony Valentine, placed the child in the chief s car and rushed him to West Jersey Hospital where he was treated for bums and serious smoke inhalation.

Marble Row as it was called, located along Federal Street near Tenth, was so named because of the ornate stone and marble facades upon a number of prominent buildings. On Thursday, March 4th, a fire originating in a multiple dwelling near Tenth and Federal Streets quickly extended to adjoining properties on both sides. Four families fled the smoke and fire as a second alarm assignment was summoned to control the blaze. Chief ' Aide, Fireman Clarence McMullen was treated for minor bum injuries.

On May 25, 1943, a carnival was held on lower Broadway near Chelton Avenue. The event was staged to raise funds in support of Third District Air Raid Wardens. Twenty-four tents and several mobile trailers were erected at the site. A discarded cigarette started a fire in a large 40 x 50 foot tent which communicated to outside awnings attached to a five ton merchandise trailer. Captain James Young of Ladder Company 2 was treated for burn injuries resulting from this incident. 

The annual report of the Department for the year ending December 31, 1943, reported a total of 1648 alarms citywide, an increase of four hundred alarms over the previous year.

In January 1944, the Civil Defense agency under the direction of Chief Air Raid Warden Samuel Dickinson conducted a number of major readiness drills throughout the City. Thousands of volunteers including district air raid wardens, first aid members and auxiliary police and firemen participated in these exercises, supported of course, by uniformed police and fire personnel.

On Thursday evening January 6th, a huge drill involving over four thousand participants staged some 27 different exercises around the city. Late in the evening as the drill was coming to a close, Box 31 at Front Street and Kaighn Avenue was transmitted for afire in a commercial building. Many fire fighters were still taking part in the drill when the Box went out. First arriving units found a large vacant, wood frame Blacksmith Shop heavily involved and fanned by high winds, extending to nearby properties. Second and third alarms were struck in rapid succession as thousands of volunteers from throughout the city converged on the waterfront. Civil Defense Officials were quoted as saying that "the success of the practice drills coupled with the real occurrence of a third alarm, certainly made for a very exciting day."

On April 10, 1944, Police and Firemen from Camden joined their counterparts from many other New Jersey municipalities at a march on the State Capital to protest proposed revisions in the Pension Laws that would require additional years of service for retirement eligibility. 

As a fiscal measure in early 1940, the City disbanded the 2nd Battalion Headquarters in East Camden. As a result, the Chief of the First Battalion in center city assumed the entire former response area of the Second Battalion, throughout the far regions of East Camden and Cramer Hill

On April 22, 1944, a second alarm occurred at Berwick and Boyd Streets, East Camden, involving nine occupied dwellings where fire fighters performed numerous rescues. Chief William Van Pfefferle, 1st Battalion and his Aide, Fireman Earl Toy, were responding on the first alarm when they collided with a transit bus at 18th and Federal Streets. The Aide was killed and the Chief injured. In the wake of this tragic mishap, the 2nd Battalion was reorganized at its former location.

As the Second World War came to a close, many firemen who had been called to military duty were returning home to their peacetime occupation. This resurgence of experienced personnel in the ranks of the Uniformed Force would, at least for a while, restore the Department to some reasonable balance. The matter of fire apparatus was quite a different concern. Equipment that could not be replaced during the war years was in urgent need of renewal. New apparatus would not be purchased however, until 1947.

On Christmas Eve 1945 at 10:30 in the morning, a spectacular fire destroyed Jay's Furniture and Appliance Store at Broadway and Division Streets, South Camden. Throngs of last minute Christmas shoppers jammed Broadway and the surrounding streets to view this fourth alarm.

A month later on January 24, 1946, another fire broke out in a rooming house on Broadway near Jasper Street, South Camden. As many occupants fled the smoky blaze, a first floor tenant ran across the street to the quarters of Engine Company 3. Captain Edward R. MacDowell received the verbal alarm, notified the dispatcher to transmit the Box, and then turned the company out.

As "Two Truck" entered Broadway from Kaighn Avenue, a police wagon ahead of them pulled aside to allow the ladder company to pass. Suddenly two autos came racing up Broadway and sped between the apparatus and the police van. The cars sped onward but were caught by the police near the fire scene. The drivers were arrested on charges of careless driving; speeding and obstructing traffic. In Police Court the next morning they pleaded guilty to the charges and were fined $5.00.

Just after 10 P.M. on February 20, 1946, yet another Broadway Spectacular occurred in the S.S. Kresge Department Store at 29-33 Broadway near Federal Street. First arriving units found heavy smoke billowing from the building as second and third alarms were transmitted in quick succession.

Shortly after midnight, a backdraft injured five members as flames raced through the building. Firemen William Reed, Thomas Winstanley, Theodore Guthrie, Thomas McParland and Captain Howell Needham were removed to Cooper Hospital for facial bums; whereupon each member insisted on returning to the fire following treatment. At 12:30 A.M. Deputy Chief Charles Erickson directed the Fire Dispatcher to recall a platoon of off duty members and summon them to the fire. By 2 A.M. the flames had broken through the roof and were visible ten blocks away. As the first floor began to collapse Engine Company 8 was forced into the street as a roaring column of tin vented outward some thirty-five feet over Hudson Street. While the Department was making a major effort on Broadway, another fire broke out at the Camden Foundry Company, Front and Elm Streets, North Camden. Engine Company 11 assisted by off duty members staffing reserve apparatus confined this fire to a section of the building.

Following the long war years and the delays associated with replacing aging apparatus fleet, in 1947 the Department took delivery of two new tractor and tiller aerial ladders manufactured by Peter Pirsch. A 100' model replaced a wooden aerial at Ladder Company 2, South Camden; and an 85' aerial replaced an old city service truck at Ladder Company 3, East Camden. The 1947 Pirsch at Ladder Company 2 would see twenty years of extremely heavy fire duty in first line service until its replacement in 1967.

In February of 1947, Chief of Department John H. Lennox passed away at the age of 66 following a long illness. As the last Chief Engineer from the horse drawn era, the death of Chappie Lennox would close a glorious chapter in the history of the Department. Deputy Chief Walter Mertz would be appointed interim chief, a position he would hold in an acting capacity until 1950.

In his budget address before City Council on January 9, 1948, Commissioner David S. Rhone testified that "the Department is so undermanned that when a member reports off duty on sick leave, some fire companies do not have sufficient manpower to operate the apparatus and have to borrow men from other firehouses. We must correct this condition".

On January 10th,the City authorized a $1.5 million dollar fiscal appropriation. On the same day firemen rescued four youths stranded for several hours on a raft in the Delaware River. One boy had fallen into the icy water but was pulled to safety by his companions. In a remote area of Cramer Hill, other boys on shore set a grass fire at 36th Street and Farragut Avenue to attract help. The plan worked and responding firemen rescued the boys who were removed to the hospital for exposure.

On January 12, 1948, Firemen Elwood Menzies of Engine Company 8 died in the line of duty during a working fire at 713 Blaine Street, South Camden. Firemen Menzies was connecting a hose line to the apparatus when he collapsed in the street. He was 51 years of age and had more than 25 years of service.

In 1949, the City awarded a contract to American La France Fire Equipment of Elmira, New York for delivery of the first new pumper in over twenty years. This new, cab forward design, was affectionately referred to by some firemen as bathtubs because of the vehicle's low profile sides and the manner in which fire fighters sat in individual jump seats, facing rearward. Between 1950 and 1960,an entire fleet of these apparatus would eventually replace the City's 1920 and 1930 vintage pumpers. These new pumpers would also be equipped with Hardie Guns as new, state-of-the-art, high pressure booster nozzles that provided straight, spray and fog stream patterns.