Port Newark fire raises questions about fire suppression training at shipping ports

Anthony Johnson Image
Thursday, July 6, 2023
Deadly fire at Port Newark raises questions about firefighter training
An investigation into the Port Newark fire has raised questions about the decision to send firefighters into a scenario they weren't trained for.

PORT NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- An investigation into the deadly fire on a docked ship at Port Newark has raised questions about the decision to send firefighters into a scenario they weren't trained for.

While the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) maintains fire rescue capability at its airports, and drills regularly on aircraft rescues and plane crashes, there are no federal requirements for fire suppression training at shipping ports, according to a Port Authority source.

Now, that's become a major focus of the investigation following the deaths of two Newark firefighters.

Two firefighters were killed while fighting a fire on a ship docked at Port Newark Wednesday night.

Questions were raised about the Port Authority's ability to handle such incidents on their own property.

"They're the ones who present the hazards, they're the ones who bring the ships in and expect the local fire departments to deal with them," fire safety expert Glenn Corbett said.

The Port Authority has a small firefighting operation that depends on the municipalities like Newark, Elizabeth and the FDNY for large incidents such as the fire on a huge cargo ship. But, in most cases they have not been trained on how to battle such a blaze.

"None of these firefighters have probably ever seen this ship, let alone been on one, and then be expected to try and deal with this fire basically and all these unknowns," Corbett said.

Newark has the nation's second largest port operation. The largest port is in Long Beach, California where the fire department there, along with the Los Angeles Fire Department, conducted training exercises with the coast guard on cargo ships.

Eyewitness News reporter Anthony Johnson asked the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey if they offer the same training and have not gotten a response.

RELATED | Investigation underway into what sparked deadly cargo ship fire in Port Newark

As Newark grieves the loss of two firefighters killed while battling flames on a cargo ship, the investigation into what sparked the fire continues.

A grieving mayor of Newark says that has got to change.

"That's a long conversation we're gonna have from now until we get some real resolution to what needs to be done as we move forward," Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said.

Cargo ships are made of steel and that causes a fire to get much hotter than a typical building fire where there are windows and ventilation. Cargo ship fires may not happen often, but now Port Authority is being called into question.

"I think it points out the lack of attention that they've paid to this situation," Corbett said.


* Get Eyewitness News Delivered

* More New Jersey news

* Send us a news tip

* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts

* Follow us on YouTube

Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News

Have a breaking news tip or an idea for a story we should cover? Send it to Eyewitness News using the form below. If attaching a video or photo, terms of use apply.