Smoke seen from campus: fire flares up at Fairfield apartments

Fairfield apartment fire 1
Kevin Travers /THE REVIEW
The surrounding area was crowded with emergency vehicles from the Aetna Hose Hook & Ladder Company.

Staff Reporter

On Tuesday night, a multiple-apartment fire damaged building 20 of the Fairfield apartments on Country Club Drive, displacing the residents of 12 units from the building that is a short walk from north campus.

Just past 5:30 p.m., 911 operators sent fire crews to the building that lies right on the border of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Firefighters from all three states battled the blaze that started on the upper level of the brick apartment building.

John Farrell, the spokesman for Aetna Hose Hook & Ladder Company, said that 66 fire fighters, 10 emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics responded and had the blaze under control in 40 minutes.

“The city and the state are working on a co-investigation,” Farrell said. “There were no injuries.”

Buildings 18, 19 and 20 were evacuated and the streets were closed off by a blockade of emergency vehicles at the corner of Stamford and Country Club Drive. Each building’s power was cut.

Farrell said an ambulance was called for an elderly woman from building 18 that was on a respirator to help her evacuate.

Multiple residents were out on the street, along with their pets and loved ones. Sam Sawyer, an Aetna EMT, said a cat found in the blaze was stabilized and will make a full recovery.

“The cat is okay,” Sawyer said. “Responders from UD-1 gave it CPR and have respiratory equipment on it; it’s in a stable condition now.”

Sawyer is one of many university students that are training to become certified EMTs with the Aetna.

Casey Morgan and her friend Vincent live just down the street. They were sitting across the street from the wrecked roof of the building.

“We’re happy everyone is okay,” Vincent said. “When we came around the corner we saw the fire and called 911, but right as we got through, four to five fire trucks came down the street.”

Fairfield apartment fire 2 Kevin Travers /THE REVIEW
Multiple residents were out on the street, along with their pets and loved ones.

Vincent said it was ridiculous that the 60s-era building did not have a sprinkler system. Farrell said that if the building had a sprinkler system, the scene would have been wrapped up in under 30 minutes.

“There are so many fires in sprinkler buildings [in Newark] that the press never hears about them,” Farrell said. “Those jobs are one and done. Our people don’t have to face high heat, don’t have to be put in peril.”

The requirement of sprinkler systems in local city housing is relatively new to the city, but for buildings built in 1966, like the Fairfield apartments, no such system exists.

Peter Phan, a resident on the top floor of the building, was standing close to the scene with his dog. He said in his 10 years of living at the apartment complex, nothing of this nature had happened.

“I started smelling smoke and soon there were fire trucks pulling up,” Phan said. “Nothing like this has ever happened, small things [have] but I have never seen this many emergency trucks.”

The residents of the apartment, wearing UD apparel and holding two cats, declined to comment but were unharmed. The Red Cross arrived within an hour to begin the process of finding housing for the displaced residents.

Fairfield apartment fire 3
Kevin Travers /THE REVIEW
UD-1 EMT’s stabilized a cat found unconscious in the smoke of the burning apartment.

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