Boro Call / Largest Response

nfd2004

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Jun 22, 2007
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As I remember it was during the 1970s, when the FDNY War Years had not only seen the heaviest fire activity, BUT also the MOST BORO CALLS.

After the 10 Alarm Boro Call in Bushwick, along with several others, including the 1977 Black Out, something had to be done.
Not only were individual buildings burning, but "BLOCKS WERE BURNING".
Companies would pull up to find 3 or 4 buildings going on arrival.

It was then that the city realized that something had to be done, and the city added 300 (?) additional Fire Marshalls in 1978.
They were known as Red Caps and were visible in the streets letting people know they are out there.

Although the fires continued into the 1980s, the FDNY Marshalls DID make a HUGE DENT in the amount of fires throughout the city, putting a much needed end to the FDNY WAR YEARS and so many people being hurt or even killed due to these fires.
 

johnd248

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I believe in April 1963 there was a boro call fire in Brooklyn at Linden Blvd and Rockaway: Box 2125. Several blocks of buildings and lumber yards on fire. Many Brooklyn companies had previously responded to SI for brush fires, When this box came in, there were not many companies left in Brooklyn. I remember E 215 responded from quarters on India Street in Greenpoint to the fire at Linden and Rockaway. Boro call brought companies from Queens. E 240 was acting E 257 and ended up being first due. Their Captain reported that their location was "untenable" and they were backing out.
 

JohnnyGage

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As I remember it was during the 1970s, when the FDNY War Years had not only seen the heaviest fire activity, BUT also the MOST BORO CALLS.

After the 10 Alarm Boro Call in Bushwick, along with several others, including the 1977 Black Out, something had to be done.
Not only were individual buildings burning, but "BLOCKS WERE BURNING".
Companies would pull up to find 3 or 4 buildings going on arrival.

It was then that the city realized that something had to be done, and the city added 300 (?) additional Fire Marshalls in 1978.
They were known as Red Caps and were visible in the streets letting people know they are out there.

Although the fires continued into the 1980s, the FDNY Marshalls DID make a HUGE DENT in the amount of fires throughout the city, putting a much needed end to the FDNY WAR YEARS and so many people being hurt or even killed due to these fires.
Interviewing a member of L 124 for the book, he told me during the blackout, L 124 positioned itself in the middle of an intersection and just rotated the bucket from fire to fire.
 

entropychaser

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Jun 27, 2017
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Hi Guys,

Forgive the question which maybe pretty straightforward to you guys, but asking from the UK across the pond.

With two 7th alarms transmitted in the last week I noticed on the individual topics for these incidents people make reference to a boro call. One of the guys explained it pretty well, that if a fifth alarm had been transmitted and a further response was required, the officer in charge would request a 2nd alarm from a different borough and then that assignment would respond to the incident?

Have I understood this correctly?

This leads me to the question, aside from 9/11, what is the largest response to a single incident in recent times within the FDNY?

A few incidents that I have read about, either on this excellent site, in books or on other websites include;

The Knickerbocker Fire, Brooklyn - 10 alarms?
The Jamaica Gas Explosion, Queens - 13 alarms?
Greenpoint Terminal fire - 10 alarms?
St Georges Hotel - 18 alarms?

Would be really interested to hear your thoughts.

Best wishes
To clarify, above a fifth alarm in the old days, the transmission of additional alarms using a box from a different borough would be a borough call. Additional alarms can be transmitted from a different box in the same borough. This would be known as a simultaneous alarm. I believe this last occurred in Brooklyn in the 1960's. A similar technique was used in Baltimore after the Chief ran out the six alarm running card. Then, an adjacent box was picked out and additional alarm were transmitted (by then, I assume most companies dispatched were relocators). All of the above tactics were made necessary by the inflexible telegraph system.
 

fdhistorian

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Sep 25, 2013
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Relatively few US cities had the resources to handle more than one 5-alarm fire. Fewer cities could handle a 5-alarm fire and maintain adequate coverage. Even fewer cities could handle more than one 5-alarm fire at a time.

New York City was one of only three US cities that could handle more than one simultaneous 5-alarm fire. The boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn had enough resources with the boroughs themselves for two fires. Thus it was possible to request additional alarms to a 5th alarm fire by drawing units from less affected areas within the same borough, This was known as the Simultaneous alarm.

With resources in multiple boroughs, a later concept was to draw additional resources from unaffected boroughs. This became the Boro Call.
 

fdhistorian

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Why did most cities (that had enough resources) adopt 5 alarm running cards, not more or not less alarms? Direct response assignments were based on distance from the fire. If each alarms’ companies are considered to represent an expanding circle or pie wedge (in remote parts of the city), the difference in response distance among companies becomes less and less, the further out on the higher alarm. Distances beyond the closest 20 companies become meaningless beyond a 5th alarm.

Simultaneous alarms in Coney Island, for example, brought multiple alarm assignments from Downtown Brooklyn. With all companies having a long ride, the individual distances were less important. Boro calls work the same way, staging companies at a common transit point, such as a bridge.

Baltimore was the only city with 6 alarm cards. As George Carlin joked in his newscaster parody, “Good evening folks. It’s 6 o’clock in New York, 5’o’clock in Chicago, and 3 o’clock in Los Angeles. In Baltimore it’s 5:15.” Baltimore generally assigned three engines on each alarm, so the total on 6 alarms was comparable to other cities. Additional alarms were signaled on a nearby ‘adjacent’ box. While the initial 6 alarms were from the original box, the adjacent box would be made of relocated companies. Relocated companies were not on the original box assignment, but could respond on the ‘adjacent’ box as a different call but responding to the same fire. In the days of telegraph bells for alarms, it was the fastest and easiest way to get the alarms transmitted.
 

entropychaser

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Thank you. Pittsburgh and Baltimore FD's were similar in size over the years.
Would you have an image of a Pittsburgh running card to post?
Let me see what I can find. With ongoing construction, I'm operating with the Kansas tornado filing system.
 

Atlas

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A question to be asked is will FDNY ever transmit another boro call or a simultaneous call again? With the computer dispatch system is there a need to do this? All the dispatcher needs to do is just keep on special calling the correct number of units per each programed alarm level. Update the incident history indicating that these special calls were for the 6th or 10 alarm just in case the new computer can't handle the requirement. The Starfire CAD system was designed to send the nearest 90 engines & 40 trucks for each box. If companies are relocated into empty quarters, there will be sufficient companies to meet any request for companies. What the computer forced FDNY to do was to standardize all alarm levels citywide. Years ago, there were boxes that had more then 4 engines on various alarm levels.
 

GeoC

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Jul 25, 2018
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Brings back memories. I was in TL-131 and we were special called to the job. We took up position on the side street (?) and was told to stop the spread as the wind was ripping down the street from the river. Looking down the street there were quite a few Towers up and operating, we started water into the windows and just watched as the fire blew right past us with a roar of a train.
After a time we started to relieve members in the bucket due to the cold. Unfortunately the cold and water spray started coating everything it touched. As we tried to relieve the members in the bucket the boom would not descend. Luckily there was a Tower close enough to reach us and transferred the now frozen brothers to the ground. We later learned about the selinoid switch under the boom that restricts the boom from lowering too far in the cradle of the rig was frozen It froze in the stop safety position when it was lowered earlier. It would let the boom go up but not down. We had to break the ice off those two guys to get they’re coats off.
Needless to say they went on ML.
I still shiver when thinking about that night.Tough fire.
 

DaveReinstein

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Nov 1, 2019
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Brings back memories. I was in TL-131 and we were special called to the job. We took up position on the side street (?) and was told to stop the spread as the wind was ripping down the street from the river. Looking down the street there were quite a few Towers up and operating, we started water into the windows and just watched as the fire blew right past us with a roar of a train.
After a time we started to relieve members in the bucket due to the cold. Unfortunately the cold and water spray started coating everything it touched. As we tried to relieve the members in the bucket the boom would not descend. Luckily there was a Tower close enough to reach us and transferred the now frozen brothers to the ground. We later learned about the selinoid switch under the boom that restricts the boom from lowering too far in the cradle of the rig was frozen It froze in the stop safety position when it was lowered earlier. It would let the boom go up but not down. We had to break the ice off those two guys to get they’re coats off.
Needless to say they went on ML.
I still shiver when thinking about that night.Tough fire.
Apparently the job in 1985 off on Hall st in Brooklyn was the same way. Multiple TL had their waterway frozen and the fire spread to exposure 3 on ryerson st. They transmitted two boxes for that job. This was within a day or two of the fire next to R1’s quarters. 6:24 into this video is the old Stanley soap works fire back in 77
 

DaveReinstein

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Nov 1, 2019
Messages
158
To clarify, above a fifth alarm in the old days, the transmission of additional alarms using a box from a different borough would be a borough call. Additional alarms can be transmitted from a different box in the same borough. This would be known as a simultaneous alarm. I believe this last occurred in Brooklyn in the 1960's. A similar technique was used in Baltimore after the Chief ran out the six alarm running card. Then, an adjacent box was picked out and additional alarm were transmitted (by then, I assume most companies dispatched were relocators). All of the above tactics were made necessary by the inflexible telegraph system.
The job on Hall Street in 85 was a simultaneous alarm. They used a box for Hall st and a box for Reyerson st. Different building in the interconnected complex on the other block. Interestingly enough the entrance for the building on Reyerson st was on Hall St, behind one foe the buildings on Hall.
St George hotel used 3 different boxes I believe.
 
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