Camden Fire Department
The Fires of June & July, 2011
July 2, 2011 
Fires at 1304 Sheridan Street & 976 Fairview Street

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

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. 

In the early morning hours of July 2, 2011 a fire was extinguished at 1304 Sheridan Street, and as it was being wrapped up, the corner store at 876 Fairview Street went up in flames, with adjoining homes being damaged by smoke and water. On June 27th a fire was extinguished at 932 North 3rd Street in North Camden. 

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


876 Fairview Street

Philadelphia Inquirer * July 2, 2011

Building collapses, firefighter injured in latest Camden blaze

A fire caused the collapse of a building containing a store and second-story living area in Camden early this morning.

A firefighter reportedly suffered an ankle injury at the scene.

It is the latest in a string of fires that have struck buildings containing commercial or vacant buildings in recent weeks, although officials are not saying the fires are connected.

The city fire department was dispatched about 3:45 a.m. Saturday with reports of a heavy fire coming from the second story of the building on the 900 block of Fairview Street. Within minutes, conditions had deteriorated rapidly, with heavy fire engulfing the building.

About 4 a.m., a firefighter stumbled and broke his ankle, according to dispatch reports. Channel 6-Action News reported that the firefighter was from Gloucester City.

 Low water pressure also hampered efforts to battle the blaze.

The front of the building collapsed, according to dispatch reports monitored by Breaking News Network. The three-alarm fire was brought under control about 5 a.m., but not before damaging surrounding residences.

 Camden suffered at least three major fires in June. Arson was identified as the cause of one, and was suspected in two others.

There were no preliminary reports as to the cause of Saturday's fire.

Fire at 876 Fairview Street - July 2, 2011

Camden Courier-Post * July 2, 2011

Morning blaze guts store, 2 homes in Camden; 2 firefighters hurt

Two firefighters were hurt this morning battling a blaze that began about 4 a.m. on the 900 block of Fairview in Camden.

The fire consumed a corner store, according to the Associated Press, and damaged two nearby homes.

This marks the largest fire in the city since the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ruled a fire at an abandoned plant last month to be arson. That fire was the third in a string of major blazes at abandoned buildings. will post additional information as it is confirmed.

Philadelphia Inquirer * July 2, 2011

Blaze ruins Camden shop, homes; firefighters hurt
Associated Press

CAMDEN, N.J. - A fire in Camden, N.J., has consumed a corner store, severely damaged two homes and injured two firefighters.

WPVI-TV reports that the blaze broke out early Saturday inside a store on the 900 block of Fairview Street. The store collapsed, and the fire spread to neighboring homes.

Two homes were severely damaged, and two vacant homes also suffered damage.

Fire investigators told the station that a Gloucester City firefighter broke his ankle, while a Camden firefighter was treated for dizziness.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Last month, three huge fires struck abandoned industrial buildings in Camden. One of them was ruled an arson. The other two are also considered suspicious.

Camden Courier-Post * July 3, 2011

Another city blaze claims home, store

CAMDEN  Nearly 10 years ago, Camden convenience store owner Kiki Gonzalez sold a $32 million lottery ticket that earned her a $10,000 bonus.

Early Saturday morning, her luck ran out as another multi-alarm fire in the city destroyed her store and home.

Two firefighters were injured battling the three-alarm blaze, which broke out about 4 a.m. A firefighter from Gloucester City broke his ankle, and a Camden firefighter suffered a shoulder injury.

It was Camden's fourth major fire in less than a month.

Gonzalez, owner of the Fairview Street Market at the corner of South 9th Street, watched solemnly Saturday morning as a backhoe demolished the remains of her store and the apartment above it and moved the charred remains into a huge pile of rubble.

An adjoining rowhome, also owned by Gonzalez, was severely damaged. The occupied house next door and two other houses, both abandoned, were slightly damaged. Gonzalez was not home at the time of the fire.

"My neighbors said she heard something like an explosion," said Gonzalez, the mother of eight grown children.

"My kids were raised here and everything."

The string of Camden fires began June 9 when a blaze broke out at an abandoned tire warehouse. One of the biggest fires in the city's history, the inferno went to 12 alarms, spread over several blocks at Chestnut and Orchard streets, and ultimately destroyed or damaged as many as 20 homes.

Two days later, an eight-alarm fire burned down a former mill and a neighboring home at 4th and Winslow streets in the city's Waterfront South section.

Both of those fires are listed by officials as suspicious and are still being investigated.

On June 19, a six-alarm blaze at 17th and Federal streets gutted the former Concord Chemical plant. Federal officials said that inferno was intentionally set. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has announced a $5,000 reward for information in the case.

Mary Luhrs, 64, has been renting the home next to Gonzalez for 17 years. Her son Jeremy, 28, was spending the night with her.

"Jeremy woke me up about 4 o'clock," the former health worker said. "We ran down the steps, I grabbed my cellphone and called the fire department."

The younger Luhrs said his mother would stay with friends for a while and then "we'll take it from there. I don't know what the landlord will want to do."

Indya Gonzalez, 24, said she got a call from her mother and brothers about the fire.

"I got dressed as quick as I could and came right down."

As she watched the demolition taking place, Indya shrugged when asked about how she was feeling.

"It's sad. But what are you gonna do?"

Camden fire officials could not be reached for comment on the cause of the fire, but both Gonzalez women say they believe it was another case of arson.

"There's a firebug out here," said Kiki Gonzalez, who has owned her store for 34 years. "They (firefighters) had one of those sniffing dogs out here."

Kiki Gonzalez said she had no insurance, but had called her lawyer and was waiting for him to meet with her.

"He'll tell me how much it's gonna cost, and if the Lord's willing, I'll go right down to the bank, get a loan and rebuild.

"I just thank God nobody was hurt. I would be dying if someone got hurt."

Reach Joe Cooney at (856) 317-7830 or

Aftermath of Fire at 876 Fairview Street - July 2, 2011t
Click on Images to Enlarge
Captain John Church

Captain John Church & Deputy Chief Greg Murphy

John Church & Greg Murphy






Captain Phil Gorski

Captain Phil Gorski

Agripino Figueroa, Chris Govan, Omar Miller

Jesse Falls

Ali Cooper, Phil Gorski

Ali Cooper, Phil Gorski

John Church & Greg Murphy

Ralph Schneeman

Ralph Schneeman

Ralph Schneeman

Ralph Schneeman

Bill Hargrove & Ralph Schneeman

Bill Hargrove

872 to 876 Fairview Street

876 Fairview Street

876 Fairview Street

876 Fairview Street

876 Fairview Street

876 Fairview Street

876 Fairview Street

876, 874, & 872 Fairview Street

872, 870, & 868 Fairview Street

870 & 868 Fairview Street

876 Fairview Street

876 Fairview Street

876 Fairview Street

Camden Courier-Post - July 2, 2011

PHOTOS: Morning Blaze Guts Store, 2 Homes in Camden;
2 Firefighters Hurt

Jesse Falls

Phil Gorski














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

Return to Fires of the Summer of 2011