BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Sometimes all it takes is a “Thank You” and members of the Berkeley Heights Fire Department received that recognition Tuesday night from the Mayor and Council.
The firefighters, all volunteers, responded to a report of a fire on a gasoline tanker just before 2 a.m., Saturday, April 14, on Diamond Hill Road.
The mayor asked Fire Chief Anthony Padovano and a team of firefighters to join him at the front of the meeting room at the May 8 council meeting to be recognized for their successful efforts in fighting that fire. He said he had recently spoken to the chief and asked if he wanted the firefighters to be recognized by name and “he said 'No.' I thought that was appropriate and I was proud of that because they are a team. I think that it doesn’t matter who did or did not appear at a certain event, they’re all together and they all know that whoever would have gone there would have done the same thing as the other guy did.
He described the incident, which began when New Providence Police called Berkeley Heights Police to let them know there was a gasoline tanker on fire near Ghost Pony Road, near 78, on Diamond Hill Road. “What could have been an incredible disaster in this town was adverted,” said the mayor.
There were about 25 homes in the area, all of whom would have been in trouble if the taker had exploded. There was more than 8,000 gallons of gas in the tanker and the driver and passenger were in the cab. The department quickly arrived, applied foam and got the fire under control.
The firefighters also stopped the runoff from the foam to keep it from going into the sewer lines.
Ultimately, because the cab had been burned and the tanker had been singed by the fire, they had to transfer the gasoline in the tanker to another tanker. “All in all, it was a good night.”
He said this was the type of incident that a lot of people might not have known had even happened, much less that volunteers had been out there in the middle of the night. Still, the mayor called that a good thing, because "if they hadn’t done their job," everyone would have known about the fire.
The firefighters are all volunteers and “All of us owe them a continuing debt of gratitude for all they do,” the mayor concluded.
Applause filled the room while the firefighters shook hands with the mayor, then returned to their seats.
A resident asked what had caused the fire and Padovano said it was “brakes. Brakes on driver’s and passenger’s side caught fire.” The truck was on 78 when the brakes started overheating and the driver left the highway, he said.
Councilwoman Susan Poage said these volunteers were examples of “Hometown Heroes.”
The chief had filed the following report on the incident shortly after the fire.
At 1:59 am on Saturday morning a New Providence Police officer notified Berkeley Heights Police that a gasoline tanker was on fire on Diamond Hill Rd, between Interstate 78 and Ghost Pony Rd. I arrived 6 minutes later and found the tanker truck parked in an uphill position with both drivers and passenger side tires on the tractor were on fire and the flames were impinging on the tanker portion. The tanker was parked under power lines and was fully loaded with over eight thousand gallons of gasoline. There is approximately twenty-five homes downhill of the fire, which were in serious danger in the event that the tanker sustained a catastrophic failure. A complete disaster was avoided due to the aggressive actions of the first arriving Company Officers and firefighters by installing additional wheel chocks behind the tires, getting water/foam on the fire, and finally blocking catch basins so that fuel and foam would not contaminate the sewer system. Although the potential danger was great, damage was confined to the tractor and tanker.
A first alarm assignment was dispatched to the scene as a precaution, which included the Springfield Foam Tender, an Engine from New Providence, Summit, Stirling and a Ladder from Chatham Twp. The Berkeley Heights Rescue Squad was also on scene with two ambulances. After the fire was extinguished most of the gasoline was transferred to another tanker so the damaged tractor and tanker could be safely towed. Diamond Hill Rd was closed until about 11am.
Other agencies that assisted were the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Union County Haz Mat, New Jersey State Police and Department of Transportation.
Plainfield, Fanwood and Scotch Plains Fire Dept's covered the Township at Fire Headquarters in the event of another incident.