Firefighters sent to wrong location in Jersey City fire

Dray Clark reports from Jersey City.
March 7, 2014 2:56:54 AM PST
Eyewitness News has learned firefighters initially went to the wrong address, nearly 3 miles from Thursday morning's deadly fire in Jersey City.

Mayor Steven Michael Fulop tells Jim Hoffer that first responders were initially sent to 27 Grand Street instead of 28 Grant Avenue.

Firefighters remained on the scene of the fire that killed 4 people, gutted five homes and displaced at least 35.

The flames broke out just before 1 a.m. at a row home on Grant Avenue in Jersey City and soon engulfed four neighboring homes as the fire jumped to four alarms.

The family says the victims include an elderly couple, Bishop William Pickett and his wife Eula Mae Pickett and their two adult children. However the prosecutors office has not released the names. Part of the home where the fire began also houses a small private church where the oldest male victim served as pastor.

CLICK HERE to see images from the scene.

The first fire trucks were dispatched at 1:07 in the morning.

"Structure fire reported 27 Grand Street," dispatch said.

But that's the wrong address. The fire is actually nearly three miles away at 28 Grant Avenue. When fire trucks arrived to an empty lot, they radioed back.

"Dispatch from Engine 2, can I have an address check please?" the fire truck said.

More than three minutes passed as the fire was spreading rapidly through the wood frame homes before the mistake was figured out and first responders got a correct address.

"All units redirect to 27 Grant with a T, Grant with a T Avenue," dispatch said.

This fire dispatch document shows the first engines arrived at the raging fire nearly 8 minutes after the first call.

"It's an unfortunate situation," Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said.

Jersey City's mayor says it's wrong to point fingers hours after this fatal fire and adds that emergency responses are often fraught with communication problems.

"People frantic make these calls very scared, dispatches do their best under difficult situations," Mayor Fulop said.

The fire spread so quickly through the wood homes, it's hard to say whether the valuable time lost responding to the wrong address would have made a difference to those who died in the blaze.

But the union representing firefighters says the city has to learn from this mistake.

"Really try to understand when you have the difference of Grant and Grand you have to specify what street it is. Is it Grand? Am I saying it right, or Grant?" said Joseph Krajnik, of the Uniformed Firefighters Association Jersey City.

Responders had to battle the bitter cold as well as the fire, with power lines and sidewalks freezing over from the amount of water being poured on the fire.

The five buildings were gutted, while several others suffered damage. At least 35 people were displaced. The Red Cross is providing assistance.

It took firefighters about an hour to put out the flames, but hotspots lingered into the morning.

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries.

Firefighters were unable to enter some of the structures due to stability concerns and a possible gas issue.