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On February 2, 2005, a twin-engine Challenger 600 skidded off the runway, through the fence, across Route 46 striking several cars before crashing into Strawberry clothing warehouse.
First Assistant Chief Angelo Roccamo was driving on Hamilton Avenue near the firehouse when the fire dispatch channel screamed "99 to Heights ... 99 to Heights" (99 is the fire command for Teterboro Operations).
He answered, "61 to 99 ... go ahead." The message was "plane fire Route 46 West." Then the tones went in from Headquarters.
7:20 a.m. Beep. Beep. Beep. The call goes out for the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department to respond to Teterboro Airport, the message was, "We have a plane fire at the airport."
Fresh brewed coffee will have to wait; warm bed covers are pulled back; newspapers are put down; chores are stopped as the activities of about 25 men and women turn to responding to the call.
7:23 a.m. First Assistant Chief Angelo Roccamo arrived on the scene and assumed command. Roccamo said, "As I was approaching the scene, I saw the plume of dark smoke, so I knew we had a problem."
He then saw a large aircraft afire and protruding from the Strawberry clothing warehouse which employs about 200.
Roccamo gives the order for second alarm.
7:24 a.m. The firehouse is activated as the team arrives from all over town. Turn-out gear is put on. The giant doors are opened. Trucks are started.
7:26 a.m. Engine One is the first vehicle to depart quickly going down Hamilton to Franklin, across Route 17, the railroad tracks, left onto Industrial Avenue, then right down Route 46.
7:27 a.m. Engine Two departs followed in quick succession with the Ladder company, Rescue squad and both EMS rigs.
7:30 a.m. The house is empty and the department is rolling.
7:32 a.m. Second Assistant Chief Michael Ratkowski arrived on the scene at Route 46 and found several motorists, Port Authority employees and Strawberry warehouse employees helping the injured to safety.
One car was strewn on Route 46 with injured.
The air was heavy with jet-fuel fumes.
The Port Authority fire truck was first on the scene and was pumping foam onto the smoking plane.
Because of the Huyler Street address, the Little Ferry Fire Department was dispatched and responded before Hasbrouck Heights.
Little Ferry Fire Department and EMS rescue workers rushed to the mangled car hit by the plane and, using the "Jaws of Life" hydraulic cutter, pulled out the driver and passenger.
First responders from the area begin to assemble. Due to the extensive pre-planning and training -- our area resources came together as a team.
Police from Little Ferry and Moonachie, as well as Port Authority, NJ State and Bergen County Police and Sheriff's officers, closed Route 46 from Huyler Street to Industrial Avenue, set up detours and secured the scene from onlookers and reporters and to preserve potential evidence for National Transportation Safety Board investigators.
Fire Departments from Hackensack, Lodi, Moonachie, Saddle Brook and Wallington and Wood-Ridge assisted.
Roccamo assessed the situation and began to position the departments' resources.
7:40 a.m. Heights Engines One and Two faced the plane and were positioned on Route 46 Westbound. EngineTwo hand stretched 5" hose back to the hydrant, and fed Engine #1 which began pumping water.
The Rescue truck ran "Communications" in the Eastbound lane of Route 46, in front of the crash site, behind Engine One.
Heights Ladder truck was positioned at the west side of Strawberry's to back up roof operations and assist Little Ferry's Ladder already working on the roof.
Their job was to perform ventilation operations to clear the smoke out of the warehouse, so firefighters inside could perform successful search & rescue as well as extinguish any fires.
7:45 a.m. Search and rescue operations begin at Strawberry's warehouse.
Heights EMS was set up at the center of Route 46 for triage.
7:50 a.m. Little Ferry sets up a second back-up triage center in the gymnasium of 700 student Bergen Technical High School -- 250 yards next to the warehouse to assist Heights EMS.
Seriously injured were the pilot, co-pilot, and two passengers in the car that was struck on Route 46. Five firefighters sustained minor injuries.
Hackensack Medical Center and Holy Name Hospital were put on alert to handle casualties.
At the hospitals, many of the passengers underwent decontamination for jet-fuel exposure. They were directed to heated tents where they were showered and given hospital gowns to wear.
8:00 a.m. Units from East Rutherford, Carlstadt, Garfield and Rutherford were positioned at the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department to handle any other Hasbrouck Heights or Teterboro emergency.
8:17 a.m. The fire was declared under control.
8:30 a.m. The fires are put out.
8:45 a.m. They continue to vent the building of smoke.
8:50 a.m. With concerns of a roof collapse, air horns and sirens are sounded to evacuate the building.
9:00 a.m. A fire truck with a special piercing nozzle to puncture the fuselage, arrives from Newark Liberty International Airport and injects fire suppressing foam into the aircraft.
Throughout the early moments, Roccamo called in: Garfield's Mass Decontamination Unit, Bergen County HAZMAT, Lodi's Rehab Unit, Special Ops, PSE&G, United Water, DEP to contain the fuel spill, Teaneck's Box 54, etc.
Officials arrived from the FBI, NJ State Police, various Emergency Managements, BC Prosecutor's Office, etc.
The Hasbrouck Heights Police Department assisted in handling traffic.
1:00 p.m. At the airport's administration building Roccamo participated in a press conference which was also attended by Acting Governor Richard Codey.
4:50 p.m. The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department is released from the scene.
10:45 p.m. Route 46 was reopened to traffic.
Temporary walls were set up Wednesday evening to shield the scene from onlookers.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department was on standby on the afternoon of Sunday, February 6 as the plane was removed by a crane and moved to a warehouse in Harrison, NJ on a flatbed truck. ###
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