Explosion at Harrington NJ Commercial Fire

Updated with Additional Video

On March 10, 2013 five Harrison, New Jersey firefighters were injured in an explosion while working at a commercial fire at 600-602 Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard. The fire originated in a two-story commercial building at the corner of Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard North and Davis Street and extended into Exposures Charlie and Delta, two-story residential buildings.

Figure 1. Alpha/Bravo Corner and Exposure Charlie

600-602 Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard

Image from Google Maps, click on the link to walk around using Street View.

Reading the Fire

Before watching the video (or watching it again if you have already seen it), download and print the B-SAHF Worksheet. Using the pre-fire photo (figure 1) and observations during the video, identify key B-SHAF indicators that may have pointed to potential for extreme fire behavior in this incident.

Important! Keep in mind that there is a significant difference between focusing on the B-SAHF indicators in this context and observing them on the fireground. Here you know that an explosion will occur, so we have primed the pump so you can focus (and are not distracted by other activity).

Backdraft or Smoke Explosion

While smoke explosion and backdraft are often confused, there are fairly straightforward differences between these two extreme fire behavior phenomena. A smoke explosion involves ignition of pre-mixed fuel (smoke) and air that is within its flammable range and does not require mixing with air (increased ventilation) for ignition and deflagration. A backdraft on the other hand, requires a higher concentration of fuel that requires mixing with air (increased ventilation) in order for it to ignite and deflagration to occur. While the explanation is simple, it may be considerably more difficult to differentiate these two phenomena on the fireground as both involve explosive combustion.

  1. Did you observe any indicators of potential backdraft prior to the explosion?
  2. Do you think that this was a backdraft?
  3. What leads you to the conclusion that this was or was not a backdraft?
  4. If you do not think this was a backdraft, what might have been the cause of the explosion?

For more information in Backdraft, Smoke Explosion, and other explosive phenomena on the fireground, see:

Back at it!

I would like to say thanks to all of you who have sent e-mail or contacted me on Facebook inquiring about the status of the CFBT-US blog. The last several years have been extremely busy at Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue and my focus has been almost exclusively on the fire district. However, I am renewing my commitment to developing knowledge of practical fire dynamics throughout the fire service and will endeavor to return to posting on a regular basis. In addition, I am working on a series of short (10-minute) drills on fire dynamics that will be cross posted on the CFBT Blog and the Fire Training Toolbox.

Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFIreE, CFO

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7 Responses to “Explosion at Harrington NJ Commercial Fire”

  1. Stefan Svensson Says:

    Great to see you back!
    Without knowing all the details and just by looking at it, I would (for once…) probably call this a backdraft.
    See you in Indy!

  2. Anthony Klocko Says:

    The 5 firefighters injured were members of the Jersey City Fire Department. They were fighting the fire as mutual aid companies.

  3. Scott Corrigan Says:

    From this angle you can only observe what looks like the fire dept. entry point. In watching the entry point I observe smoke issuing and then a change in direction (exhaust turns into at least a more defined intake) followed by the “event”. I am eager to hear about the actions of the interior crews (did a ceiling or wall get breached, did an interior door get opened) or was it influenced by other factors (slight wind or ventilation on the opposite side of the building). Based solely on what I can see as increased ventilation, I would say backdraft. Thanks for sharing your time here at CFBT US!!

  4. Karel Lambert Says:

    This is good news.
    Looking forward to read your future posts.

  5. Brian Burke Says:

    I concur with Stefan, good to see you posting again and a backdraft.

  6. hartin Says:

    Thanks for the additional information

  7. Brian Porter SBFD Says:

    Glad you’re back. Always great information.

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