Camden Fire Department
The Fires of June & July, 2011
June 25, 2011 - Fires at the former Coriell Institute, Davis & Copewood Streets; & at 1018 Kenwood Ave.

After budget cuts brought on in great part by poor leadership at the state level from both political parties under Governors Whitman, McGreevey, Codey, and Corzine the City of Camden laid of a large number of its professional fire department at the end of 2010. Former Chief David A. Yates had offered three plans on how to cope with the situation, all were rejected by parties at Camden's City Hall, and a plan for the Fire Department, which to date I have not been able to find out who authored, was handed back to the Chief. Chief Yates subsequently chose to retire, and Chief Michael Harper was appointed as his replacement. Chief Harper inherited a no-win situation, and the losses began almost immediately. With Fire companies closed in different parts of the city, response times to fire calls increased, homes that could have been saved were destroyed, and civilians injured. 

On June 6, 2011 a vacant two-story twin at 821-823 of Chestnut Street was destroyed by fire. Three days later, on June 9, fire broke out in the abandoned warehouse on Chestnut Street that formerly housed the Reliable Tire Company. When the few available local units arrived on the scene, hydrants were found to have been vandalized, delaying efforts to extinguish the blaze, which soon went to 12 alarms. Units were called in from surrounding communities, obviously taking a great deal of time to arrive on scene. In the mean time, high winds caused the fire to spread to adjacent buildings that formerly were occupied by the Camden Pottery Company, and homes on Orchard, Louis, and Mount Vernon Streets. Ten occupied homes were completely destroyed, as were all the industrial buildings, and thirteen other homes on Chestnut Street were badly damaged by smoke and water. Conditions and results of this blaze mimicked in almost every way the Poet's Row fire of August, 1972 where a vacant leather factory once occupied by the John R. Evans & Company caught fire and two and one-half full city blocks of homes on Byron, Burns, and Milton Streets were completely and utterly destroyed.... a deadly combination of an old and abandoned industrial building, short-staffed fire department, low water pressure and high winds being among the contributing factors.

In the early morning hours of June 11, 2011 another abandoned industrial building was reported to be on fire. The former Howland Croft, Sons & Company mill on Broadway between Winslow and Jefferson Streets was devastated by a blaze that went to eight alarms.  One house at the corner of South 4th and Winslow and three homes on Winslow Street were damaged by smoke and water, but fortunately, none were destroyed.

Rumors of arson were flying through the city when, on Tuesday, June 14 a vacant twin at 107 North 34th Street was gutted, with the adjacent home taking a great deal of smoke and water damage.

On June 19, ANOTHER vacant industrial building went up in flames. The building in the 1600 block of Federal Street, originally a soap works and in more recent times a facility belonging to Concord Chemical, went up in flames. This fire was confirmed as an arson a few days later.

In the meantime, calls for fire service great and small continued.  On June 23rd, a vacant industrial building in the 1000 block of Empire Avenue saw fire, just a few days after the Concord Chemical blaze. On June 25th, a fire was knocked down in the vacant building at Davis and Copewood Streets, the original home of the Coriell Institute, now located on Haddon Avenue

The site had from 1909 into the late 1950s originally been the grounds of the city-owned Municipal Hospital for Contagious Diseases for the City of Camden. In 1956 the South Jersey Medical Research Foundation also began operating there, and a large complex of buildings, most not visible from the street, were erected in the late 1950s and 1960s. Renamed the Coriell Institute for Medical Research in 1985, after its founder, Dr. Lewis Coriell, the facility moved to new quarters on Haddon Avenue in the late 1980s. 

At 11:47 PM on the night of June 25, the Camden Fire Department was called on to extinguish a blaze at 1018 Kenwood Avenue in the Parkside neighborhood. Camden City companies were dispatched to 1018 Kenwood Avenue when multiple callers reported a working fire. Camden County Dispatch advised that the homeowner had gone back into the dwelling and did not exit. EMS arrived and reported all occupants to be out of the structure. Squad 7 arrived with heavy fire showing from division 2 of a two story end of the row dwelling. Battalion 1 placed all hands in service. Crews knocked the fire quickly without injuries.

Another fire was extinguished at 925 & 927 North 3rd Street on Monday, June 27th.

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 4, 2011


Barry Kellem, Juan Figueroa

This fire, thank God, did not amount to much. I heard a call on the scanner for a warehouse fire at Davis and Copewood streets, where, on the northeast corner, a huge, very old, and apparently very under-utilized complex of buildings are located. I got into my truck and drove from Pennsauken to the scene of the fire, and was quite relived to find that the fire, already knocked down, was in the much smaller and somewhat isolated building located behind a chain link fence on Davis Street at the foot of Copewood, formerly belonging to the Coriell Institute.

Several units of the Camden Fire Department were on scene, and I took a few pictures. Joe Cooney, of the Courier-Post, also arrived at the fire, but to my knowledge, no story ran in the following day's paper.

That fact, as much as anything else, evidences ANOTHER problem the urban firefighter faces in 2011 and beyond. Listening to the radio broadcasting Camden's fire calls, it is evident that the department is responding to reports of fires, car accidents, people stuck in elevators, and all sorts of other situations ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT LONG. In past times, what today would be called minor incidents and not be reported WOULD rate a mention in the daily papers, and at least those who read the papers would have an idea of what goes on. Today, only fires that result in catastrophic loss are reported, and the general population goes on its merry way, blissfully uninformed about what goes on and who is responding to it every day.

One of the functions of this website is, in some small way, to tell the story that today's news media, which has given up the reporting of news and events in order to cover "celebrity scandals", refuses to publish.

Phil Cohen
July 5, 2011


Fire at the former Coriell Institute building
Davis and Copewood Streets - June 25, 2011
Click on Images to Enlarge
The building where the fire was can be seen behind the apparatus and chain-link fence

Squad 7: ___________, Brian Irving, Juan Figueroa, Barry Kellem

____________, Brian Irving, Pete Perez, Barry Kellem, Andy Delgado

____________, Brian Irving, Pete Perez, Barry Kellem, Andy Delgado

Ladder 1: Pete Perez, Andy Delgado, Joel Bain, Al Plaza

Ladder 1: Pete Perez, Andy Delgado, Joel Bain, Al Plaza

EMT Amy Pacione, Al Plaza, Andy Delgado, Pete Perez

Al Plaza, Andy Delgado, Pete Perez

EMT Amy Pacione & Joel Bain

Ed Glassman & Joel Bain

Ed Glassman & Joel Bain

Battalion 2, Battalion Chief Ed Glassman and Captain Jesse Flax on Davis Street

Everyone was relived that it was not  this building that had the fire.

Ed Stratton

Ed Stratton Jesse Flax

Andy Delgado

The former Coriell Institute complex - July 5, 2011
Click on Images to Enlarge

Fire at 1018 Kenwood Avenue
July 25-26, 2011
Video by Dave Hernandez

Return to Fires of the Summer of 2011