In the history of the Hackinsack, New Jersey Fire Department, no firefighter had ever died in the line of duty. That was until July 1, 1988. The incident occurred at a car dealership with a dangerous truss roof. The fire burned in the attic of the two-story building.

Firefighters rushed to the scene


14:59 Fire reported at a local car dealership in Hackinsack, New Jersey.
15:01 The first firefighters arrive at the scene and provide an initial report. Smoke showing—probably a working fire.
15:04 Firefighters assess the fire on the roof and begin a ventilation operation.
15:34 After battling the fire almost a half-hour, the battalion chief orders all firefighters out of the building to begin a defensive attack. No verification of this transmission came from any of the firefighters inside the building.
15:36(approx.) Roof collapses, killing 3 firefighters.
15:39 Firefighter radios that he and another firefighter are trapped under the collapsed roof.
15:41 Incident command finally acknowledges the trapped firefighters but identifies them as the wrong crew. During this time, the trapped firefighters repeatedly call for help.
15:49 Individuals from the public contact headquarters to report hearing the trapped firefighters on their scanners.
15:52 Last call from the trapped firefighters.

This tragedy had several contributing factors including poor recognition of the roof danger, lack of an additional fireground channel, and the lack of manpower. An additional factor in the IAFF report included the lack of communication support from headquarters. The firefighters outside the building could not hear the transmissions of the firefighters inside the building, yet the tape shows that these same transmissions were heard at the communication headquarters.

The dispatchers either did not hear the transmissions or assumed that the firefighters on scene could hear the transmissions as well as headquarters. The report suggested that headquarters could have done a better job of facilitating communication between firefighters and accounting for firefighters in the building.