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Thursday, May 05, 2011

Ferraro's "Gutted"; Early Morning Fire Rips Through Westfield Restaurant (See Video)

Ferraro's Restaurant

  In the early morning hours after midnight, a fire ripped through Ferraro's Restaurant located on Elm St. in downtown Westfield.  Surrounding streets were blocked with barricades as fire officials remained on the scene investigating what caused the fire.  The smell of smoke still lingered in the air and charred debris flushed from the scene lay in curb gutters along Elm St. and North Ave.  The three floors of apartments above the restaurant were burned out and early reports are that all of the tenants were evacuated safely. 

     Due to manpower issues, Westfield firefighters were initially no match for this fire and out manned as the flames burned out of control.  Firefighters had to wait until additional manpower from Springfield and Cranford (both paid fire departments) arrived before effectively fighting the fire.  Several other fire departments from around Union County responded to assist.

TFoTM asks Mayor Skibitsky and Westfield Town Council members:  How many more devastating fires, causing extensive property damage and possible injury, have to occur before the manpower issues at the Westfield Fire Department are addressed? 

OSHA had issued citations against Westfield,  see related story.
Click on link

Video of fire scene:

Go to Westfield Patch at for additional video and news coverage of fire.


  1. I was wondering what all the helicopters buzzing around downtown was.

  2. Channel 4 news is reporting that only 6 firefighters responded due to budget cuts. Way to go Mr Gildea, Mayor. So Mark Ciarrocca, due you still think the staffing level at the FD is ok.

  3. And one or two more firemen would have made the difference? Would they be serving pizza tonight if Westfield had an additional firefighter on duty last night? How did Springfield send help in as much as they have only THREE men on a shift? Westfield has TWICE as many. Really stupid to blame every fire loss on the mayor and council.

  4. 6 firefighters should have been able to vent and begin extinguishing a fire a block away from the firehouse.
    Cranford, Garwood, Mountainside, Fanwood and Scotch Plains are only minutes away.
    Our FD is badly understaffed, but this particular job should not have been really effected by Gildea and Ciarrocca and their attempt to destroy our FD.
    Until THEIR houses or families are effected the FD will continue to be seriously threatened by the people who should be supporting it most.

  5. Dear Anonymous,

    You are correct that Ferraros will will not be serving pizza tonight. If you read the story correctly, it stated,

    "Due to manpower issues, Westfield firefighters were "INITIALLY" no match for this fire and out manned as the flames burned out of control. Firefighters had to wait until additional manpower from Springfield and Cranford (both paid fire departments) arrived before "EFFECTIVELY FIGHTING" the fire.

    There is no reference in the blog to saving this structure to enable pizza service the night after a tragic fire.

    Response was diminished because Westfield could not use its "Hook and Ladder". On a 3 story building this is an absolute necessity. The question should still remain, what standard was the Town Council using to support Mr. Ciarrocca's statements that the lowered number of men would have no impact on public safety?

  6. Are the neighboring stores damaged, as well?

  7. Anthology and State Farm sustained smoke damage.

  8. Here is a thought, get rid of the two 70 year olds at the DPW. All they do is hide and sleep all day and are ineffective as far as manual labor duties are concerned. Cut some other "dead weight" employees and make room to hire more firemen. Send Gildea back to recreation where he belongs cutting his salary in half. Hire back Gotko and put this town back on the right track.

  9. There is a lot of budgetary waste in Westfield. But no one is willing to unline their pockets to do it! For a town with outlandish property taxes, you don't have a dam thing to show for it! Look at the roads for instance; for the taxes paid, they should be paved with gold! The only thing you get for the price of taxes is saying that you live in Westfield. I grew up in Westfield...spent decades in Westfield...was forced out b/c of taxes. I see no added benefit from the high taxes.

  10. In some towns the DPW department are also volunteer firefighters. It makes sense. They are in town and available if an emergency arrises.

  11. Those six firefighters on scene last night cost the town more than $480,000 a year. Add to that the Chief's brother, I mean the Deputy Chief, who was also there and that is over a half million dollars in manpower. A half million dollars, yet they who were "no match" for the fire.

    A half million dollars worth of firefighting in New York City would have had that fire out easily.

    We are not getting our money's worth at all.

  12. Ferarro’s collapse to fire is a loss for the town and for Westfield residents.
    Speaking about safety, there are different games but the same players, the Mayor and Mark Ciarrocca, who don’t understand or simply ignore their obligation to put safety before money, and to make sure ALL the residents are safe.
    Nobody knows when the tragedy can strike and accidents happen but they could be prevented by taking the appropriate measures and reducing the probability of their occurrence.
    It is true, nobody sees any benefits from high taxes, by contrary people pay these taxes and find their property devalued by poor judgment and poor management of the town’s money.

  13. First ,great job by the WFD and the other departments that responded. To the comments that Cranford works with a minimum of 5 men is absurd. Cranford has almost as many fires as Westfield and they are as grossly undermaned as WFD.It is ridicules that with the FH right across the street that they did not have enough manpower to use their own ladder truck. To compare WFD with FDNY is BS. FDNY responds on a first alarm with more manpower then WFD and Cfd combined with the ability to get more. NFPA which is the recognizes standard in the country for firefighting as well as other standards. While in NJ NFPA is not totaley adopted you can,t pick and choose which ones you want to follow.If someone gets seriously injured or dies the Town is open to mega lawsuits. The firefighters have every right to expect to go home at the end of a shift and with the taxes that Cranford and Westfield pay the resident deserve and should receive adequate police and fire the Ferraros fire the were lucky they didn.t lose the whole block. As far as the Mountain ave fire it was very fortunate that no one died. You can,t equate WFS or CFD to Scotch plains or Fanwood because evey time they have any type of structure they have to call the Paid towns for help, and that is a fact.Yes Westfield and Cranford do have volunteers but you can,t depend on if and when they are going to show up.Volunteers in these cases are ment to supplement the paid department not replace.
    To address the hours issue yes they work 2 days but they are 24 hour days. If you take the number of scheduled shifts, 91 and multiply the hours, they far exceed the 40 hours a week that most people work. The FD is like an insurance policy, they are there when you need them. Yes you may not have a fire but you do,t know that. If that,s the case why do you have insurance, any insurance for that matter, because you dont know

  14. If it was a four alarm fire, it would have been too much to handle no matter what. How about we wait to see the C&O report before we speculate that more men would have made a difference.

  15. Didn't the Westfield Fire department go to court a few years back to prevent an applicant from becoming a volunteer firefighter in town? Now they complain that there are too few firefighters. Very wierd stuff.

  16. Westfield DystopiaSaturday, May 07, 2011

    Fact - half a million dollars of firefighting in nyc would not have put that fire out. do your research because nyc firefighters do not make that much less than firefighters in suburbia these days. nyc would have sent millions of dollars of firefighting to the ferraro's fire within the first few minutes of the fire because that's what it required. you should brush up on fdny procedures and policies before you try to tell others how fdny would do it

  17. Westfield DystopiaSaturday, May 07, 2011

    Fact - an additional firefighter would not mean that ferraro's would have been serving pizza the next night (what a dumb question). an additional firefighter preferably 2 would mean westfield could have brought their ladder truck which would have been able to put an aerial master stream on the fire 10 minutes sooner which would have stopped the progress of the fire which would have ultimately caused less damage which means ferraro's wouldn't be out of business as long as they will be now

  18. Westfield DystopiaSaturday, May 07, 2011

    Fact - most people don't think they get their monies worth from any department in municipal, county, state or federal government. no matter how low you make the taxes people will still complain. no one is forcing anybody to live in a particular municipality so just move to where you think they do it better. i bet you still find things to complain about. some of you sing the praises of nyc all the time. if you think nyc is so great just move there. you will find things to complain about. the bottom line for government agencies to remember is that you can't please all of the people all of the time and you can't even please some of the people some of the time. taxpayers can't expect a department or agency to do their job without the tools or equipment. the employees in the department are just working with what they are given by town hall. if your plumber or landscaper showed up at your house without the right tools or equipment you would fire him. town hall is not giving the fire department what they need to function properly so go to a municipal election and vote them out. if you like how they do things re elect them. just remeber though that when it's someones house that catches fire it will still be 6 firefighters and no ladder truck even if someone is trapped and it is the mayor and council that dictate that this is how it will be not the firefighters. they say there is no money so i guess the residents will have to accept it. the firefighters union has a duty to fight for proper manpower and equipment and to point out what the town is doing wrong. if you disagrre or don't like what they saythan thats your choice but it doesn't mean they shouldn't say anything.

  19. Westfield DystopiaSaturday, May 07, 2011

    Fact - the c&o (cause and origin) report will not change the need for proper staffing and equipment. it will only determine the reason the fire started and where it started which has no bearing at all on how many firefighters are needed for the fire or what equipment is needed. the strategy and tactics of firefighting are not dictated on how a fire started. so the c&o report does not change the manpower and equipment issues.

  20. Westfield DystopiaSaturday, May 07, 2011

    Fact - the westfield fire department did not go to court to prevent an applicant from becoming a volunteer firefighter. obviously someone else who got twisted info from the westfield rumor mill. you people really thrive on bs rumors instead of doing research or you only read every other sentence in a newspaper article. either way your facts and peception is what's "very weird stuff". a gentlemen that was or is a volunteer fireman in mountainside and new providence took the test to become a paid firefighter in westfield and he wasn't happy about either his ranking on the list or not getting hired so he took the town of westfield to court to get some money out of the deal. he was never a volunteer for the westfield fire department. in court he didn't even care about getting a job anymore he just wanted a monetary award.

  21. Westfield DystopiaSaturday, May 07, 2011

    Fact - many dpw workers in volunteer towns are members of the fire department. westfield dpw workers obviously are not interested since none volunteer. before you jump to conclusions no one has tried to stop them from volunteering either. although i can't imagine they would be interested considering the grief they get from taxpayers about their job performance. keep a few things in mind though. if a dpw worker wants to volunteer the town would have to give him paid time off of work to go to the county fire academy for training and when there is a fire call the town would have to let them leave work with pay to go to the call. this is how it works in towns with volunteer fire departments. not to mention most dpw workers don't live in town or nearby because they can't afford it just like most of the cops and firemen can't afford to live in town. the fact is most westfield residents wouldn't want a cop, firemen or dpw worker living next to them anyway because it's just too blue collar for them. so take the first part of my rant and go get dpw workers to volunteer. good luck.

  22. Westfield DystopiaSaturday, May 07, 2011

    Fact - westfield has 15 volunteer firefighters and 5 of them responded to the ferraro's fire. 1 of the 5 is resigning the end of may because he got hired as a paid firefighter in another state. another 1 of the 5 actually retired from his position as a volunteer firefighter years ago due to his age (he is in his 70's) and still responds but can't actually go in and fight fires. the other 10 who knows. maybe overnight jobs, maybe had to get up for work in the morning, maybe just not around or maybe not interested. but remember a few facts, the taxpayers pay for gear for these volunteers and they pay for training for these volunteers and they are not required to respond because they are volunteer. where exactly is the mayor and council going to get the volunteers to be part of this all volunteer fire department that they are threatening to make in westfield. how come the mayor and council members don't volunteer for the current volunteer division of the fire department. the westfield rescue squad is having so much trouble getting volunteers that they are using your donation money to pay for their current members to go to college as an incentive to keep volunteering. maybe they can get some people from the united fund, the westfield foundation and the downtown westfield corporation to be volunteer firefighters. how about some store owners and employees from downtown so when there is a fire call they can close their store and not make any money for a few hours. how about some police officers, oh wait nevermind they are down 10 officers already. i got it, teachers from the schools so when there is a fire they can leave your kids with whomever in school and go to the fire. get real people, there is no one to volunteer except those who have hopes of becoming a paid firefighter and with the hiring freeze that is all but gone. news flash for you all who obcviously don't actually have a conversation with some firefighters, these volunteer towns in union county are sick and tired of going into paid towns and supplement the other towns paid fire department for free. the fact is some volunteer towns now flat out refuse to respond to certain paid towns and that's there right because they are volunteer.


  24. here is an idea. when any firemen arrive at a fire try putting water on the fire. why wait? how many firemen does it take to spray water?....i know more than we have. boo hoo.

  25. Not easy to be a mayor or councilman these days. Unions want their workers paid well, and generous pensions. Taxpayers want taxes held in check. Roads are falling apart, schools are cutting backstate aid has been slashed---any tragic event leads to same old cry from the unions about putting safety in jeopardy. Every cop and fireman thinks they are worth at least 100K per year. Not easy to make everyone happy. Tough decisions to be made whether you agree with them or not. I am sure the mayor and his cronies would like to add firemen--where is the money to come from?

  26. Dystopia you are wrong.

    Most firefighters in this country are volunteers and most communities are not burning to the ground.

    80% of all American firefighters are volunteers. This means that DPW workers, police officers, teachers, store owners, etc. all serve as firefighters. In fact you can find just these professions in the volunteer departments that surround us.

    Both Scotch Plains and Mountainside fire departments have 30+ firemen on their departments, Westfield has 32. These communities are safe. These communities also included the added danger of Wachung and Ash Brook reservations.

    There is no discussion of these communities (or Garwood or Fanwood) becoming paid departments because there is no Union presence. A paid fire department might be a valuable community asset, but the 80% of American towns also indicate that it is not usually a necessary one.

    This is not merely a safety issue. It is a Union issue. Paid firemen are in a unique and difficult position in that the majority of firemen do their very job for FREE. Westfield might have few volunteers, but Scotch Plains and Mountainside's number of firefighters are similar to those of Westfield.

    It is important to note that the WFD is not actively seeking volunteers, they in fact discourage them. If the number of volunteers in town began to equal or even exceed the number of paid firemen (as it actually did in the 1960's) the Union wouldn't stand for it. This would be a direct threat to the Union of paid firefighters, an organization whose very existence has as one of it's goals to increase the number of paid fire departments. As a Union this actually should be one of it's goals, but the battle is a tough one, especially in these times. If someone will do your job for free arguing for a few more $100,000 a year positions becomes difficult to justify.

  27. This all falls back on the same argument mentioned over and over again, poor manangement and poor budgeting! None of these discussed problems would exist if the Town learned how to balance their budget without state aid! Town government has depended on state aid for years to balance the books, now that we are without it, there is a financial crisis! You are supposed to be LEADERS, where are your principles? All I see is shame with no one to blame but yourselves! No names needed, they know.

  28. Westfield DystopiaMonday, May 09, 2011

    Interesting name Paul B Jr. The WFD had a well paid fire chief by the name of Paul B Jr who is retired now collecting his pension no where near Westfield. Couldn't be the same person though because that Paul B Jr went to town hall to demand a 7 man minimum and he got it. You mention the 60's and having more volunteer firefighters than paid. Let's do that. Let's go back in time to when the WFD had 12 paid men on a shift. That's right 12 on each crew and used to respond to half as many calls as they do now. The demand for service has increased and the staffing has decreased. They say do more with less but you can't drive 2 trucks at the same time if you are one person. This isn't the 60's Paul. People have to work 2 or 3 jobs to pay the bills now and volunteerism in emergency services is down across the country.

  29. Westfield DystopiaMonday, May 09, 2011

    Most of the country is protected by volunteer firefighters and they are DPW workers, cops, teachers and store owners. I never said these people were not volunteers firefighters. Where do you think I came up with those professions. What I did say is good luck getting them to volunteer in Westfield. Keep in mind many of them cannot leave work to go fight a fire especially teachers. Scotch Plains and Mountainside do have 30+ volunteers on their rosters but what Paul doesn't tell you is how many are ACTIVE. Only ACTIVE volunteer firefighters fight fires. Most volunteer firefighters stay on the department roster until they die. Many volunteers on a roster are senior citizens because they are life members of a fire department but they don't go fight fires. Again some research will prove that Westfield paid firefighters have had to respond to a regular fire alarm in Mountainside because no volunteers from Mountainside responded and I am not talking about Children's Specialized either.

  30. Westfield DystopiaMonday, May 09, 2011

    You make it seem like the union has so much power. The union makes NO decision on policy or how things are run in the fire department. That is all decided by the administration and the non firefighter mayor and council. TFOTM is right on with the only experts the town consults on firefighting are the fire chief and deputy chief who are both appointed by them and serve at their pleasure. By the way rumor has it that the fire chief told the town he needs at least 8 on a platoon to function properly and the town doesn't care. The union has a duty to speak out and fight for it's members. You don't have to agree with what they say but if something bad happened people would say why didn't the union mention this. Well now no one can ever say that. The major fires don't stop with ferraro's. There may be a lull before another one but they will always happen. The union doesn't get anything that the administration, mayor and council didn't agree to give them. If you don't like what they are given go complain to the mayor. I will remind you that the firefighters union was credited by the town recently as giving more concessions than any other employees in town.

  31. Westfield DystopiaMonday, May 09, 2011

    By the way Paul if Scotch Plains volunteer fire department is so well off why does their paid fire chief ask for paid firefighters from the mayor and council every year. It's because they are hurting for volunteers and he has a duty to speak out about it. No union influence there either.

    Don't believe the hype of the watchung and ash brook reservations being an added danger either. Brush fires and structure fires are 2 different animals. The danger exists when you start stacking dozens of people on top of each other 5 stories high in apartment buildings like carleton towers not wide open spaces with trees and leaves. NYC has alot of fires because there are alot of people packed together not because they wide open reservations. Besides, Scotch Plains and Mountainside have special fire trucks called brush trucks that they can drive off road right into the reservations to get to the fire and the Scotch Plains paid fire chief is a certified wildland firefighter and therefore knows exactly what will be needed for a fire in a reservation. Ladder trucks like the one Westfield can't staff are not even used in wildland firefighting.

  32. Westfield DystopiaMonday, May 09, 2011

    There are no discussions about Fanwood and Garwood hiring paid firefighters not because there is no union presence. It is because there is no call volume and no demand for service. Not to mention they don't even come close to population and square miles combined to Westfield by itself. Don't even start throwing around how many actual fires happen in Westfield. Everyone already knows that it is not alot. Residents in Westfield count on their firefighters to assist with all kinds of problems no matter how laughable. Residents in Garwood, Fanwood, Scotch Plains and Mountainside don't expect that for whatever reason.

    When you say that the WFD is not actively seeking volunteers I assume you mean advertising and membership drives in which case you would be right. Again though, that has nothing to do with the union. The union has no control over that type of stuff and if it doesn't happen it's the administration and council that aren't doing it. They do however always accept applications from new volunteers and actually sent a group to the county fire academy in 2009 and 2010. You can't take an application from a perspective volunteer and start them right away. They have to undergo a background check, a physical and get certified through the fire academy before they can go to fires.

    How about the town hold a membership drive for new volunteer firefighters like they did a few decades ago. It only cost several thousands of dollars and they got a whole 2 new volunteers out of it. 2 retirees to be specific. They could probably do better now. It will cost more to have the event because everything is more expensive now. The time required of those new volunteers is doubled, maybe even tripled now that there are twice as many calls and the state required training is more intense and time consuming than ever.

  33. Westfield DystopiaMonday, May 09, 2011

    One of the councilman recently said that Westfield's fire department meets or exceeds standards. What standards are those. The councilman is really putting himself out there legally by saying that if it's not true. I need a link to the website where he got those standards because the National Fire Protection Association writes all the recommended standards on every category that pertains to firefighting in the United States and Westfield meets very few of their standards and staffing is not one of them.

    If Westfield was meeting standards OSHA would not be investigating them for the Hamilton House fire last month for which the town will most likely be fined for unsafe practices.

    As far as the comment from anonymous about putting water on the fire and not waiting, they did put water on the fire right away and didn't wait. If you look at one of the you tube videos of the fire you can see a fireman by himself on the sidewalk spraying water into the windows of ferraro's. The point was they needed large volumes of water from an aerial device as soon as possible but had to wait for Cranfords ladder truck.

    I want to apologize for the multiple posts but for those who don't know each post is limited to certain amount of characters and than you have to start a new one.

  34. Westfield DystopiaMonday, May 09, 2011

    As for the other anonymous that talks about the fire cubs going sleepy sleepy nite nite. You are not exposing any big secret to the public that the firefighters go to sleep. They have a dormitory with beds just like every other paid fire station in this great country. They live at the fire station for 24 hours and it is a second home. Watch any firefighter documentary and you can see all about it. I'm not sure if you could require them to stay awake for 24 hours straight due to labor laws. Most taxpayers actually want their emergency responders rested and ready if needed so that they are at the top of their game. If they are tired and unprepared their judgement could be clouded and mistakes might be made that could cost a life. You wouldn't want your favorite sports team awake all day and night before a big game it's counterproductive.

    You asked about when the fire came in, which I believe was just after midnight. As I am sure you know the fire station isn't exactly across the street from ferraro's it's more around a corner to the point where if you were standing outside ferraro's main entrance you actually can't see the garage doors of the fire station so across the street gives the wrong mental picture. Across the street would actually be a row of businesses on Elm st.

    As for the firefighters smelling smoke from the fire station that is not a very practical way to locate and track a fire. When there is a major fire smoke travel varies greatly and can be misleading. Wind direction and speed will than come into play. Plus if the windows of the fire station were closed it would be difficult for the smell to enter the station and. Apparently many residents that lived above ferraro's didn't smell smoke either so assuming that the firefighters would smell it in the fire station isn't very realistic. One would also have to figure that there is a smell of smoke in a fire station on a daily basis due to the equipment smelling of smoke from past fires such as Hamilton House and out of town fires that Westfield goes to.


  36. Dystopia, You actually believe the possibility of a wildland fire in either reservation does not pose an enormous fire hazard in Scotch Plains and Mountainside?

    One brush fire that reaches the size of the Ferros fire could actually very quickly burn the entire town of Mountainside to the ground. Brush fires move far more quickly than structure fires, they are much larger too. Have you ever seen footage of the California fires each year. This is a potential hazard the scale of which Westfield FD doesn't face.

    What is the point of trashing the dangers faced by Mountainside and Scotch Plains firemen? I have said nothing negative about the fact that the WFD does face hazards and does so with limited manpower. I mentioned volunteers because they do fight fires and provide protection throughout the country including our neighboring towns. The fact of the matter is, the FMBA does not want an increased volunteer presence in Westfield or anywhere else. As a union representing paid firemen this is understandable.

    I think Westfielders would volunteer with encouragement. Of course a few years ago Castellano and Gildea went to court to argue that they do not need to take qualified applicants as volunteers, but can pick and chose who they want based on personal choice as opposed to ability to actually serve successfully as a volunteer.

  37. You hit the nail on the head with that post. Who the heck is Gildea to argue anything about qualifies applicants and whether or not they should serve as volunteers? The way he goes about hiring people is like opening up his belt, dropping his pants and looking to see how many hickeys he has on his arse.

  38. speaking of hickeys does that little guy from the pd (chachi) still sucking. clean your mouth

  39. Where was the Chief during all this? If the department is short staffed - which I truly believe that it is, why isn't Chief Kelly down at Town Hall demanding addaitonal men, like Paul B did? Oh, that's right, Chief Kelly was att the bar with the mayor, Ciarrocca and Gildea

  40. why don't volunteers drive fire trucks in westfield?

  41. WD, very well said. As a retired paid FF I , as well as the department has been on many many fire calls to the mentioned volunteer towns.The problem with a lot of volunteer towns is if they do get any people, a lot of them are to old to fight fires.When we went to the Winfield school fire the had 3 men that were well over 70.Also at least 3 house fires too.I was first due to a reported occupied school fire, twice in the middle of the day in Kenilworth, They didn't show up.My department were the only ones to respond to Mountainside for primaries down on 22, again they didn't show up.Garwood is a great one, the year the Old Oakland house burned down.They showed up with 3 old timers and the rest were in Wildwood
    having fun at convention. Cranford and Westfield had to handle that one. I could give you dozens more.The one genius stated that the vollys are tired of going to paid towns for free. Well I got news for you dude, the paid towns are tired of going to the volunteer towns for nothing.Those towns expect the paid towns to fight there fires because they don't want to pay to properly staff a station. Whats even worse is when paid towns have to cover a Volly station and sit there when they dont have any body sitting there to begin with.Why do my tax dollars have to go to cover your station. You fail to realize with the manning in Westfield and Cranford , overtime has to be used to cover OUR towns while they are sitting in some volly station. To the last comment why dont volunteers drive, how long are you going to wait for them to show up to drive IF they show up at all. Fire waits for no one

  42. Sounds like you have family members on the fire department. Aren't you all related?

  43. No relatives, just me, and I am not from Westfield, but close.