Friendship Fire Co. #1
Woodbury, NJ

Serving Woodbury, NJ for Over 200 years

The History Of Friendship Fire Company #1

Belber Trunk Fire

March 9, 1970, Woodbury experienced its largest fire to date in the city and possibility the largest single building fire in Gloucester County. Belber Trunk was a factory building four stories tall that was about 225' X 225' building shaped like an "L" and built of old mill construction (red brick and heavy timber) at the end of the 1800's. The building was located on Green Avenue where the southern building of the Woodbury Mews complex now stands.  The current northern building in the Woodbury Mews complex and what was the southern building which became Belber Trunk were both built by Colonel G. Green, Woodbury's first millionaire.  He was making medicines in these in these buildings.  The larger of these two buildings was being underutilized so it was rented to Blasius Piano Company.  By the 1920's the Belber Trunk Company of Philadelphia moved their world headquarters to Woodbury and occupied the the piano company's building.  By 1970 the building was being sub-rented to other companies since there was not a big need for steamer travel trunks anymore.

 

The building had a sprinkler system which was shut off before the fire.  The fire was arson. The building burned to the ground. Monday night at around 8:00 p.m. box 2-2-6 was pulled on the telephone pole in front of the building.  This box was a box famous for false alarms except for that night.  The Woodbury Fire Department responded and made an attack with 2½-in hose into the basement area from the loading docks.  The room flashed over and the men dropped their hoses and exited the building to safety.

The fire burned going from window to window, floor to floor like some one was turning on light switches in each room.  Fire companies from Gloucester and Camden Counties contained the blaze.  The Woodbury water reservoir was dropped 13-ft. (about 7.8 million gallons) and the Woodbury lake system was lowered 4-ft (estimated at about 2.5 million gallons).

The next day, the only thing left was the stair towers which were knocked down for safety.  The basement although filled with water still contained the contents of a four story building and the pile that was left of the building smoldered until Saturday.

About 15 years later or so, a one story "butler type" metal building was built on a corner of the property.  While digging the foundation the workmen recovered a 2½-in brass hose coupling belonging to the Woodbury Fire Department left by the retreating firemen in 1970.

Below is a list of equipment and companies used at the Belber Trunk fire. The list was complied shortly after the fire. It is important to note that nearly all of the trucks were gasoline powered and used 2½-in supply lines.  Also the companies names may not be the proper fire company names of today.  Some might be listed by their town or others by a shorten fire company name.  Where the town is not obvious the town's name was included. A few companies have since merged into a single fire company or dissolved, I shall leave the list as written for others to figure out in their own histories.  For example the Westville Fire Department (station 7-3) is the result of a merger of Westville's Union Fire Company (station 7-1) and Independent Fire Company (station 7-2).  There are several others.  Also in the case of Gloucester City, it is unclear if they all came from the same station or if it was split among the four stations in their city at the time.

500-gpm pumpers were common place in the 1950's, 750-gpm were large for 1960's, and 1000-gpm pumpers giants for their day. Today 1000-gpm pumpers are the minimum and they go to 2000-gpm or larger. 2½-in hose was the standard water supply hose of the day.  With 2½-in hose and 750-gpm pumpers it took a lot of hose and a lot of engines to pump water.  It would take six 2½-in hose lines to equal one 5-in hose line today.  Often the pumpers would lay dual or siamese lines from engine to engine "relaying" water from the water source to the fire scene.

Editor's note: Belber Trunk stood on the site that is now occupied by the Woodbury Mews. The four story northern most building was built in the late 1800's as part of Colonel Greens medicine factory. The rest of the buildings are new construction. The Woodbury Mews opened in 2003.  For more on the history of this building goto Blasius & Sons Piano Co. page at the Village Green Preservation Society

 

This view is from the front of the building looking across the railroad tracks (west side of building)
March 9-10, 1970


Belber Trunk Fire Response

Company

lines

hose
2½"

# of pumper
(gpm)

who was
supplied

hours
pumped

men

aerial

deluge
guns
location relay location
of gun
Friendship
(Woodbury)
6 2200'
100'-3"
150'-1½"
400'-1"
booster line
1-750
1-500
aerial 51 40 1-100' 1 ladder rear
750 @ Barber & Green
front
Good Will
(Woodbury)
4 2000'
100'-3"
600-1½"
1-1000 Westville ladder

3-deluge guns
40 30 front hydrant
Almonesson
(Deptford)

1

900'
150'-3½"

1-500
1-750

aerial
draft

20

1-100'

1

north side
Lake Dr.

yes

N.E. corner
Audubon 1 1-1000 Woodbury
Heights
Green Ave. yes
Barrington 1-1000 Cooper St. &
Railroad Ave.
from
Greenfields
Bellmawr Park 1 1000' 1-1000 1-100' drafted at lake
ladder - standby
yes
Billingsport
(Paulsboro)
2 4800' 2-750 deluge 15 1 Broad & Barber Front-opp
Hopkins St
Blackwood Terrace (Deptford) 1 900' 1-1000 pumper 3 14 Lake Drive yes
Clarksboro 1-750 6 8 standby Good Will
Colonial Manor
(West Deptford)
4 3100'
600'-1½"
1-1000
1-750
Glassboro aerial &
truck deluge
31 1 south side yes south east
Deptford Rescue
Gibbstown 2 1800' 1-1250
1-1000
2 handlines
2½"
8 14 Aberdeen Place, & a standby engine
Glassboro 1 100'-3" 6 8 1-75' front of building, south end
Gloucester City 1 1750'
100'-3½"
2-1000 Gloucester aerial 6 33 1-100' 1 ladder at NW corner, pumper at lake and on Green Ave. yes front NW
Gloucester Canteen
Greenfields (West Deptford) 2 2150' 1-750
1-1000
Sewell 8 21 Cooper St. lake, & Railroad Ave yes
Haddon Heights 1-75' standby Friendship
Helping Hand (Deptford) 1-?
Highland
(Pitman)
1 1300' 1-? National Park 6 30 1-75' E. Barber at lake & front of building south end yes
Independent (Westville) 4 3250'
400'-1½"
1-1000 Westville aerial, Wenonah deluge
13 15 Wallace & Railroad no
Jericho (Deptford) 1 800' 1-750 5 10 spark control finished relay for Billingport
Lake Tract (Deptford) 1-500 19 Barber near lake spark control
Mt. Royal 1-750 Colonial Manor rear 4 15 1 Barber & Maple yes
National Park 1 400' booster 1-750 1 line relay 5 13 Barber & Maple yes
New Sharon (Deptford) 1 1400 1-1000 Good Will E52 8 15 Broad & Hopkins yes
Oak Valley (Deptford) 1 950' 1-750 deluge gun 6 20
10 standby
1 Maple & Barber no SE corner
Pennsauken #2 1 1800' 1-750 Audobon 1-80' snorkel SW front, pump on Green Ave. yes
Pitman #1 1 1300' 1-? National Park 6 30 1-75' E. Barber @ lake, front of building south end yes
Pitman Patrol 2 400' booster 1-750 2 6 soak down Wednesday night
Repaupo 6 work detail Tuesday morning
Sewell 1-?
Swedesboro 1 2100 2-750 Good Will E52 18 Cooper St. from Barrington yes
Tacoma (Deptford) 2 100' 1-750
1-500
relay
standby
10 22 Railroad & Barber, Friendship yes
Thorofare (West Deptford) 1-?
Union (Westville) 2 400' 1-1000 aerial
deluge
6 17 1-75' north front north side middle yes north side
Verga
(West Deptford)
1-?
Wenonah 4 3500' 2-750 snorkel & Pitman aerial 15½ 35 1 1- front, 1- Barber & Carpenter yes front S. side
Woodbury Heights 6 3000'
300'-1½"
1-750
1-1000
deluge & Westville 21 28 1 Green Ave yes N. side middle
Vol. of A. Canteen
2nd Alarmers Canteen
TOTALS

39,300'-2½"
550'-3"
1900'-1½"

44 pumpers 271 hrs. 533 6 ladders
1 Snorkel
10
deluge guns
3 canteens

 

 

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February 3, 2013