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Update: Clyne & Murphy Fire Hits Six-Alarm Status

Massive fire in downtown Westfield brought under control by firefighters.

Firefighters from across Union County continued to battle a massive five-alarm fire at the catering business in downtown Westfield late Sunday afternoon. The fire was reportedly brought under control by about 6:45 p.m.

An hour earlier, flames continued to shoot through the top of the building and a roof collapse was reported. The blaze destroyed at least six local businesses and a restaurant.

At about 5:45 p.m., heavy smoke continued to pour out of the catering company's building at 439 South Avenue West and flames could be seen from the roof of the structure as firefighters continued to douse the blaze. The cause of the fire is unknown but initial reports indicated that the fire may have begun in the loft area of the building. When contacted, the Westfield Fire Department still could not officially pinpoint the exact origin or cause of the blaze.

Fire departments from across the region responded to the call in Westfield. Ladder trucks and hoselines were out in full force to combat the blaze late Sunday afternoon. Fire Departments from Elizabeth, Cranford, Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Roselle, Roselle Park, Mountainside, New Providence, Berkeley Heights and Garwood provided mutual aid as emergency workers struggld to bring the blaze under control.

As firefighters worked to extinguish the fire, a stretch of South Ave West was closed from the traffic circle up to the Westfield Train Station. At 5:35 p.m., the street closures remained in effect.

Clyne & Murphy is located near a cleaners on the corner of South Avenue West and Westfield Avenue. Residents who stood a block away, watching the scene unfold, said approximately 25 years ago, a business called Roots was housed in what is now Clyne & Murphy. The corner structure also houses a shoe repair shop and the Sound Station record/CD store, among other businesses. Smoke from the fire spread through nearby neighborhoods and could be seen for at least a mile.

Armed with cameras, Joan Brennan, the wife of Westfield Fire Lt. Tim Brennan, watched with her children as her husband and other emergency workers worked to extinguish the fire.

"You never really get used to it, because we don't get that many (large fires) in town," Brennan said. "You really get the sense of the enormity of the situation when you see how many people are here."

Brennan said what makes it even more difficult is knowing that homes or businesses are being damaged because local firefighters  - due to safety regulations - are often forced to wait for mutual aid before they can enter a building. She believes that if the department had more manpower, such delays wouldn't be an issue.

This is the first major fire in Westfield of 2012. Last year, the six-alarm 's fire occurred in May and the Italian restaurant is still in the process of rebuilding.

Mike January 24, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Mutual aid is great, and should be encouraged. But I think the question Westfield residents need answered is: if there is a fire in my home and my family needs help, will the Westfield FD stand around outside waiting for mutual aid to arrive before they begin fighting the fire or not? The average Westfield resident believes that the FD will immediately get to work, but I am not so sure anymore. Sounds like we are on our own for longer than we think. I hope it doesn't take a loss of life to get that question answered.
Sally McBride January 24, 2012 at 07:02 PM
how stupid is this comment? Not saying this is the case here, but there are FD that have been over funded for years as political favors. Shareen, are you willing to pay for all of this? Or should someone else have to pay?
Sally McBride January 24, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Sounds like it is time to have a county wide fire department and get rid of all of the separate ones. Seems like that is what we have right now. And with the added savings from removing the clerical overlap, we can hire more guys for the real work
Mike Brindle January 24, 2012 at 08:40 PM
I beileve Hillside FD also sent over a truck and crew to help. So sad that a Westfiled icon like that is gone. For those of us who were high schoolers in the '70s; Roots was to us what Arnolds was to Richie Cunnighnam and the gang from Happy Days. So sad and hope the businesses can recover and re-group. Mike HTHS'77
NR9 January 25, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Response to Michael Morano- My understanding is, if they have reason to suspect one or more people may be inside, the first responders, even if short-staffed (under 4), will go inside to attempt rescue. However, if they are positive that everyone has managed to escape safely, they must wait until there are 4 firefighters (in total, incl. from the other Westfield fire house or neighboring towns). Assuming for a moment that everyone manages to get out safely before the fire dept. arrives, firefighters waiting around for mutual aid to arrive could mean the difference between partial damage or complete destruction to a home/business. And, if the flames were to get further out of control while firefighters are waiting, neighboring properties/inhabitants become increasingly at risk as well. Recently, there was a home fire (on Cumberland Street I think) where all residents escaped safely before the first responders arrived. But, with less than 4 firefighters having arrived, those first responders had to just stand there and wait. It was reported that the homeowner pleaded with the firefighters to begin battling the flames but, following the rules, they were not allowed to start. The other issue is that a certain number of firefighters are needed to operate the ladder truck and, under current staffing levels, the ladder truck usually just sits in the fire house. During the Ferraro's fire, the ladder truck remained parked at the fire house, less than a block away, for that reason.

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