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Concerns Arise After City's 8-Alarm, 12-Alarm Blazes

Concerns Arise After City's 8-Alarm, 12-Alarm Blazes

From her home on Winslow Street , Mildred Ruiz, 71, views the aftermath of Saturday's firein Camden, the second large one in two days.

Philadelphia Inquirer via YellowBrix

June 15, 2011

CAMDEN – After two large fires that tore through vacant warehouses within days of each other last week, Camden’s mayor voiced her concern Monday to the state attorney general.

Speaking at a news conference, Mayor Dana L. Redd did not say whether officials thought that Thursday’s 12-alarm blaze at a building near the Parkside neighborhood, once rented by a tire company, or Saturday’s eight-alarmer in a former garment factory in Waterfront South were considered suspicious.

“My concern is the fact that [the fires] happened within a very short period of time,” Redd said Monday, but would not elaborate.

No deaths or major injuries occurred in either fire.

It could take weeks for the city and county fire marshal’s offices and other agencies to determine the causes of the blazes, officials said.

The attorney general’s staff is not involved in those investigations, said Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for the office. It will provide assistance if needed, he said.

The size of the fires also was troubling, city attorney Marc Riondino said.

Redd said she wanted to “dispel any misinformation” about the need for manpower from other towns to help Camden firefighters on Thursday and Saturday. Camden’s Fire Department is down by 29 positions after layoffs by the cash-strapped city in January.


A smokestack stands amid rubble at the scene of Saturday's fire at the Howland Croft Sons & Co. building.

Camden relies on assistance from suburban companies, most of them staffed by volunteers, when the city’s eight companies are all deployed.

On Friday, Kenny Chambers, the union president for Camden’s firefighters, said the response by fire departments from more than three dozen towns in Camden, Burlington, and Gloucester Counties that night left those towns vulnerable had a fire broken out in any of them.

A coordinator oversees delivery of mutual aid within the county, and Camden has given the same assistance to its neighbors, Redd said.

“Never has mutual aid in responding to the city of Camden depleted the resources of our surrounding towns,” Redd said.

Redd also disputed an assertion by Chambers that there might have been less property damage had more Camden firefighters been on the payroll. Redd, who has found funds to rehire 31 of the 60 firefighters laid off, said the magnitude of the recent fires would have required assistance no matter what.

“Our staffing levels pre-layoff would not have been able to tackle those fires without mutual-aid support,” she said.

The city has applied for a $5.8 million federal grant to rehire more fire personnel, Redd said.