On Wednesday May 1, at approximately 12:30PM, a fire was reported at the American History High School on the corner of Warren Street and Lock Street. The building is an abandoned high school that sits adjacent to the NJIT campus. The incident is being investigated by Newark Police and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.
According to NJIT Chief of Police Joseph Marswillo, “To this point, and it looks like that’s where it’s going to lie, it was deemed an electrical or mechanical fire. No arson [was] involved…. There were no injuries reported from the fire…. I think they [Newark Fire Department] finally cleared at around six, give or take. They were doing their final checks and all. We didn’t have to do any major evacuations on campus, obviously.”
Members of the new NJIT EMT and Community Service Officer (CSO) program were also on scene to help. NJIT student EMT Dhwanil Khadakia and CSOs Michael Cohn, Nick Couper, and Matt Rizzo were on scene to assist Public Safety with crowd control and scene management.
Marswillo also noted that the Public Safety Department was quick in sending an alert to everyone on campus regarding the fire. The alert warned students to “Avoid the area of Warren St. Lock St. specifically Old History High School due to active fire.”
However, students continued to follow the flames and see the scene. Sophomore Mechanical Engineering major Chris Jackson said “I got the notification from the police department and went to look outside my window. There was a bunch of smoke billowing from … across Lock. Some was coming out the windows and there were a bunch of fire trucks, police cars, and an ambulance all lined up and down the street.”
Freshman Mechanical Engineering major Marek Wlodarski said “I was eating at GDS when I saw on … [a] snap story that there was a fire. So I went there to check it out. I feel public safety handled the situation very professionally and the fire didn’t affect students’ safety. I saw firefighters going into the flaming building and I saw them cut down the main door when the flames got there.”
After the fire, there was speculation as to who owned the building, as some students were under the impression that the American History High School is an NJIT property. NJIT’s Vice President for Real Estate Development and Capital Operations, Andrew Christ, debunked this idea. “NJIT does not own this building. We have been working with the current owner, Claremont Properties, Inc., to either purchase the property or develop it based on the NJIT Facilities Master Plan. To date, we have not concluded these discussions.”
Chief Marswillo said in regards to the fire response that “it actually went really well. The alerts went out really fast. We did them from the location, which was a good thing. That was kind of like a test, how quickly we can get this out to everybody, so that was good…. As big of a fire as it was, it went very well.”
Photos by Sandra Raju and Marek Wlodarski