Pre-school and police station on fire
Storm leads to blazes in North Bergen
by Vanessa Cruz
Reporter Staff Writer
Nov 11, 2012 | 7705 views | 1 1 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE ROOF WAS ON FIRE – The second trailer of the pre-k, whose roof caught fire.
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Fires were yet another casualty that Hurricane Sandy inflicted on the township of North Bergen. Blazes affected both the Police Department and the town’s trailers used for pre-school students in the public schools.

A town spokesman said Thursday that the pre-school will hopefully open at the beginning of the coming week.

Police Department changes location

During the storm on Monday, Oct. 29, the power went out to the area around the Police Headquarters, which is in the same complex as Town Hall. A generator located in the building's garage kicked in to provide power. Later that night a detective sergeant noticed smoke coming from the generator, which apparently was malfunctioning. The police called North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue immediately and they responded quickly and put out the fire.

This left the police communications system offline, creating logistical challenges. Chief Robert Dowd personally called Hudson County Sheriff Frank Schillari, who provided the department with 10 portable radios and allowed North Bergen to use the Sheriff's Office radio frequency to communicate. The police also used personal cell phones and whatever other means available to them to stay in touch and get vital information to first responders.


One trailer was an office and one was a classroom.


Without the transformer, the township’s computer systems lost power, meaning that the Help Desk and NB Connect were unable to work. The Help Desk allows residents to ask questions on the township’s website and get a response from municipal employees. NB Connect gives residents emergency alerts along with other important community news when they sign up for it.

According to Town Spokesperson Phil Swibinski, emergency management teams working out of a police substation on Tonnelle Avenue relied on cell phones and walkie talkies in order to stay in contact with the township.

Power at the headquarters was restored on Wednesday, Oct. 31.

Pre-K woes

Some public school students in North Bergen attend pre-K classes in a group of trailers within James J. Braddock Park.

However, on Monday, Oct. 29, the trailers caught on fire when a tree fell on live wires, causing them to spark. The fire damaged two trailers. One trailer served as offices, while the second was a classroom.

A passerby called police.

“When the wire snapped…it ignited a fire in the first trailer which was the office for the Pre-K,” said Deputy Police Chief Robert Dowd. “Eventually the roof for the second trailer caught fire.”

According to Commissioner Hugo Cabrera, the trailers were rented and will be replaced.

Public school reopened in North Bergen on Monday, Nov. 5, except for the pre-school. Officials could not give a date for when it would restart, but said that PSEG was working on the power for the rest of the trailers, and that pre-school would likely resume this coming week.

Former Police Chief William Galvin, Deputy Robert Dowd, Commissioner Hugo Cabrera, Township Administrator Chris Pianese, and Mayor Nicholas Sacco went around North Bergen after the storm to access areas that needed repairs and rebuilding.

Vanessa Cruz can be reached at

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November 13, 2012
I would like to know what is the plan B for this situation. Kids are home and apparently they will remain home since there is no response from the Board of Ed as when this will be solved or where can kids be sent in the meantime. The critical part of not attending is that it affects the kids that receive therapy through the special ed program. Very disappointing to not know where this is going and have not heard a word from the school. We had to reach out to them for answers and as we found out today, they don't have one.