In the early morning hours of Sunday, December 31, 2017 with temperatures far below freezing, the City of Summit Fire Department received an emergency call at 5AM for a reported outside fire against a building. Fewer than four minutes later, six Summit firefighters arrived on the scene, and were met with 30-foot flames coming from the structure.

The incident commander quickly established command and reported that the fire had spread rapidly to all floors of the three-story occupied apartment building with multiple occupants trapped at second and third floor windows. Rapidly accessing the magnitude of the situation, the incident commander ordered his crew to immediately begin rescue operations and ordered additional firefighter resources to the scene.

As firefighters began rescue operations, two occupants were forced to jump from second floor apartment windows due to the intensity of heat and smoke in the building. One firefighter initiated patient care for the two jumping victims, while the remaining firefighters focused their attention on two other trapped occupants - one at a second floor window and another on the third floor. The occupant in the third floor window was threatening to jump, as heavy smoke was starting to surround him. Firefighters successfully calmed the occupant, raised a ground ladder and safely rescued him from the building window. The firefighters then repositioned the ground ladder and safely rescued an occupant from a second floor apartment window. Within 30-seconds of saving the two occupants, both windows became heavily engulfed in fire. In all, a total of 12 families were affected by this fire.

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The ability of the Summit Fire Department to respond anywhere in Summit within eight minutes is a major factor in the successful rescue of trapped occupants at this incident. This focus of this career department of 32 highly- skilled career firefighters on training and capabilities is critical to reducing loss of life and property, and minimizing damage in the 2,200+ emergency incidents responded to annually. The Summit Fire Department is on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and serves with a mission to: “Provide the highest level of fire protection and emergency service to the public.”

The Summit Fire Department has an outstanding working relationship with our Summit Police Department, Division of Public Works, Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad and the American Red Cross, as well as area fire departments from Union and Essex counties. Many of these agencies provided extraordinary assistance and support at the Summit Avenue incident and in many other fire-related emergencies that occur each year in Summit.

Summit’s local business community also plays a vital role during emergencies. The Committed Pig restaurant closed its doors for business and generously transformed its restaurant into a shelter for the 12 families displaced by the fire. The Summit Area YMCA served as a drop off point for donations of clothing and furniture and is continuing to work as a source of support for fire victims. The Grand Summit Hotel housed some residents displaced by the fire. Other businesses such as Vita Organic Foods, Greek Grill, Summit Diner and Dunkin Donuts provided crucial support that morning as well.

As Chief, I am extremely pleased and proud that with minimal, initial resources at the scene, the Summit Fire Department successfully fulfilled our mission and put our expert training into practice, conducting critical rescues to ensure that no lives were lost. 

Eric Evers, - Fire Chief, City of Summit Fire Department