RICHARD CORNELL PROSSER served for over 24 years with the Camden Fire Department. A veteran of the United States armed forces, he was appointed to the Camden Fire Department in 1967. He served with Engine Company 7 in the late 1970s. In time he was promoted to the rank of Captain, serving with Engine Company 10 as late as 1990. Richard Prosser finished his career is the Fire Marshall's office on May 1, 1992.
After Camden lifted the residency requirements on its firefighters, Richard Prosser moved to Glendora where he and his wife Joan raised three sons, Richard Jr., Joseph John, and Paul Prosser.
Richard Prosser retired to Millsboro, Delaware. He passed away on July 17, 2009 and was interred at St. Joseph's Cemetery in Chews Landing..
Camden Fire Department - Newly Appointed Firefighters - November 10, 1967
Standing L to
R: Robert De Ford - Jesse Flax Sr. - Captain Roy Taggart -
Frank Deal - Chief of Department
Edward V. Michalak - Robert "Sonny" Frett
- Ferdinand Meloni
TIP O' THE HELMET TO" .... Fr.
Bill Huelas and Fr. Dick Prosser of Engine
7, and Fr. Jim Hillman and
Capt. Bob Lapp of Engine
8, for the fine rescues of three trapped and
unconscious children, performed at all hands-Box #5214, transmitted at
2330 hours on April 10, 1977 for a fire located at 1264 Thurman
Teamwork on the part of all units resulted in the saving of life and the
quick confinement of fire. Also glad to hear of Fr. Jesse
to duty from medical leave following a bad feed of smoke inhalation,
received while operating at this Box. Units operating at all hands5214
were Engine 7 and Engine
8, Ladder Co. 2, and 3rd Battalion under the command
of B. C. George Kurtyan. A job well done.
Back in the 70's, Captain
Van Istendal, Dick
Prosser, Mike Galasso, Bob Gibson and me ran our butts off and yes, a lot of repeated alarm boxes. We were the pivot company and ran with everybody. I started at headquarters in 1968 when
I first came in and it was at its busiest, seemed like at least one house fire a night. -
Left to right:
Be Sure To
Fire Watch Magazine - 1991
Three Camden Fire Fighters face the horror
from the inside out
city of Camden, New Jersey is a municipality of approximately 100,000
people located in the southern part of New Jersey across the river from
Philadelphia. A classic example of one of America's oldest urban
municipalities that saw its heyday in the years preceding World War II,
its serious demise as a once prominent industrial center occurred
throughout the 1960s and '70s when civil disorder and flight of its
middle class to suburbia brought urban decay on a frightening scale.
Once called the biggest little city In America and noted for producing everything
from battleships to fountain pens, Camden was the founding home of such
resident industrial giants as RCA, Campbell Soup, Esterbrook Pen, and as
many as six active shipbuilding yards along with hundreds of other
recent years, the city has been on the brink of a gradual renaissance
with increasing levels of new construction and a visible decline in the
prior deterioration of its soul. While a vast majority of Camden's populous
remain dependent upon a variety of social services to exist, its fire
department continues to lead the state of New Jersey and most of the
nation in its per capita rate office incident.
October 21. 1990 was a clear and sunny Indian summer day in the city of
a city known for its heavy fire duty, Sunday mornings in the Camden fire
department are frequently dedicated to cleaning and restoring tools,
apparatus and equipment from what is often the hectic Saturday night
The day tour of duty on October 21 started out like any other Sunday around the firehouses of Camden. The platoon working the night before had four working fires; a second alarm, and numerous other services. Sunday morning roll call was followed by the customary maintenance to apparatus and quarters, followed by an additional one-hour drill on engine and truck operations. After training, all hands turned their attention to the noon meal.
The uneventful routine of this normal Sunday was punctuated by the expected nuisance of the occasional false alarm and several outside rubbish fires. With the meal out of the way and the department's agenda of duties completed for the day. the city's fire control force settled into what they hoped would be the balance of a quiet day. A few minutes past 1400 hours: such hopes were dashed by the occurrence of a routine structural fire that ended in tragedy for three veteran Fire Fighters and shook the psychological well being of the entire department.
At 1406 hours. the fire alarm office received a call reporting "a stove on fire" at 2429 Arnold Street in the Fairview Manor section of South Camden. Engine Company 10 responding first due from their quarters just three blocks away. was assigned for "a defective appliance" and made their 90-secone run down Morgan Street to the fire. Upon arrival at the scene, Engine 10 under the command of Captain Richard Prosser. reported medium smoke showing from the rear of a two-story brick occupied row dwelling. Captain Prosser ordered the box transmitted and directed his company to stretch a 1-3/4 inch line into the fire.
2 and the Chief of the 3rd Battalion that also share quarters
with Engine 10. responded on the box and arrived in a minute. On
arrival. Battalion Chief Walter Szatkowski observed heavy smoke on both
floors and transmitted a "working fire" signal. At that time
Engine 10 had one line in operation on a fully involved single room
kitchen at first floor rear. Chief Szatkowski ordered Ladder 2 to ladder
the building, vent, and start a primary search of the property.
Captain William Young, commanding Ladder Company
2, directed his
two-man forcible entry team to raise a portable ladder to the front.
search the first floor of the fire building and then evacuate the
adjoining property. Captain Young and Fire Fighter Daniel Galasso then
headed to the floor
above the fire to vent and search for occupants.
By all standards, it was a routine fire with one room on the ground floor of a row dwelling of ordinary construction- a room and contents fire requiring at most a deployment of two lines. What transpired in the new few minutes following arrival became a routine fire with extraordinary circumstances.
As Ladder 2's forcible entry team entered the first floor of the fire building to start the primary search, Engine 10's backup man (Fire Fighter George Jackson) advised them that the search of the first floor was already complete and "negative." The forcible entry team then moved to the adjoining building to evacuate that property, while Fire Fighter Jackson ascended the stairs to assist Captain Young and Fire Fighter Galasso in expediting the search of the second floor.
Under ordinary circumstances, the first 1-3/4-inch attack line, initially supported by the 500 gallon tank, would have been quite sufficient in abating the fire conditions in the kitchen area. The value of a second available hoseline usually stretched by the second due engine would normally be taken to the floor above as a routine precautionary measure, most often during or after the primary search. During the early stages of this fire however, a number of critical events occurred that seriously complicated what should have been an otherwise routine operation.
occupant of the building, in attempting to operate a thoroughly corroded
burner control knob on a stove while using a pair of pliers, forced and
snapped the gas pilot orifice away from the burner's Venturi tube. What
ensued was a forced, gas-fed range top fire that rapidly communicated to
kitchen cabinets above the stove. The occupant fled the building before
the arrival of the fire department. By the time Engine 10's nozzleman
brought the line into position at the entrance to the room, the fire had
extended beyond the stove and cabinets above to involve wall, ceiling
and other contents. Engine 10's attack team was not aware
the seconds ticked by the initial stream was having small effect on the
volume of developing fire. In the interim, Engine 10's pump operator was
having difficulty with the closest hydrant, only 150 feet away, that involved
a tightly frozen outlet cap. The dwelling was quite small: three rooms
on the ground floor and four rooms including a bath above. The small
interior floor space was the reason that Engine 10's backup man (Fire
Fighter Jackson) was able to complete a primary search of the two other
first floor rooms in those seconds preceding Ladder 2's arrival.
Fire Fighter Jackson, a seasoned veteran with 24 years on the job, knew immediately in the first few seconds after the nozzleman started water on the fire that conditions were not improving as they should. He also knew that the second due engine wasn't in yet and that an additional line would not be available within the next minute or two. With this understanding, Jackson also realized that an extra pair of hands during a primary search makes the operation go a lot faster. What he or the other search team members above the fire did not know was that there was an initial water supply problem out in the street. The turn of events happened very quickly.
As Engine 10's pump operator radioed the officer at the nozzle to back out due to an expected interruption in water, the kitchen flashed over in explosive involvement. Simultaneously on the floor above, Captain Young with Fire Fighters Galasso and Jackson. had just completed the search and were regrouping to board the top of the staircase when they heard the urgent message from below. As they hastened their descent of the short staircase, they were stopped in their tracks by a barrier of withering heat.
The doorway to the kitchen was located directly under the stairs to the second floor. As the room flashed over with the pressure of burning gas, the fire belched out of the kitchen doorway and entered the flue of the open stairway. Just moments later, Engine 10's nozzle ran out of water and there was nothing between Ladder 2's search team and the beast, except the short span of the L-shaped stairs.
In boarding the top of the stairs on the second floor, Captain Young made sure he was the last man down. Extremely heavy smoke conditions momentarily caused Galasso and Jackson to lose direction of the stairway. Young pointed them to the too step landing and they started down, first Jackson followed by Galasso and finally Young. Fire Fighter Jackson was the first to feel the breath of the dragon. He shouted in pain as the other two members above him became engulfed in waves of blistering heat. A flashover of the second floor felt imminent. Captain Young, as the last man on the stairs, was the first to reverse direction and retreat upward. Fire Fighters Galasso and Jackson rapidly turned to follow the ascending stairway in pursuit of Captain Young.
The full brunt of the beast was loose and the deadly flame, preceded by blistering waves of heat, roared up the open stairway to the top floor landing. Captain Young ran while shedding his SCBA, and instinctively dived head first toward the first opening he saw- a 12-inch space above a window air conditioner and through the narrow broken window pane to the outside. Fire Fighter Galasso, as the second man in pursuit, exited an adjoining window head first in similar fashion falling onto a portable ladder while burning from head to toe.
Fire Fighter George Jackson, a powerful man of great strength, was now alone in the hall and he met the beast head on. Jackson bore the full force of the rolling fire as he continued to move in the direction of egress while burning all the way. His injuries however would not permit him to continue. He collapsed on the floor just several feet from the window.
Engine Company 7, responding second due on the box, made their normal six-minute run from quarters and arrived at the scene in just over four minutes. They quickly caught another hydrant and supplied Engine 10 while stretching the second line to the fire. The rescue company also moving on the box, responded from their uptown station and arrived seconds behind the second due engine.
Rescue 1, under the command of Captain Anthony Dowidowicz, stretched a third line to cover the search for Fire Fighter Jackson. Rescue's Fire Fighter Ronald Boyle ascended a portable ladder and used the 1-3/4 inch line to darken visible fire on the second floor before entering the window. Boyle found Jackson on the floor inside the window where he collapsed, slumped among furniture. He was critically burned about the face and hands but was semi-conscious. In heavy smoke, Fire Fighter Boyle quickly removed his mask and placed it over Jackson's face to "buddy breathe" with his brother until help arrived.
Engine Company 7, under the command of Captain Robert Scarduzio, pushed into the building with their line and knocked the fire down on the first floor. They advanced up the staircase, killing residual fire as they went, and reached Fire Fighters Boyle and Jackson in seconds. In the interim, Battalion Chief Szatkowski special called an additional engine to the fire to replace the fire control efforts of those units diverted by the rescue operation. Engine Company 3 responded on the special call and assisted units in overhauling the first building after completing a secondary search.
Fire Fighter Jackson was removed via the interior stairway and transported by EMS to the Cooper Hospital Trauma Unit behind Captain Young and Fire Fighter Galasso. The entire ordeal had taken less than ten minutes.
Captain William Young was admitted to the Trauma Unit in serious condition suffering from severe smoke inhalation and first and second degree burns. His condition was upgraded to stable some three days later and he was transferred to a regular care ward. He was released from the hospital a week later and returned to active fire duty one month after the incident.
Fire Fighter Daniel Galasso was immediately transferred from the Cooper Hospital Trauma Unit to the Crozier-Chester Burn Unit by EMS ambulance, suffering from second and third degree burns to 24 percent of his body. Fire Fighter Galasso spent an arduous period of two months in the burn unit recuperating from his serious injuries. After numerous operations and skin graft surgery, he was finally discharged a week before Christmas 1990, and continues to receive daily physical therapy on an out-patient basis at an area rehabilitation center.
Fire Fighter George Jackson was also immediately transferred from the Cooper Hospital Trauma Unit to the Crozier-Chester Burn Unit by medivac helicopter, suffering from extreme smoke inhalation, respiratory injury and second and third degree burns to 38 percent of his body. Fire Fighter Jackson's condition was so severe that in the course of the first six weeks following his admission, the burn unit almost lost him on as many different occasions. In the course of his treatment for a variety of injury related problems, Fire Fighter Jackson entered a coma where he has remained for the past two months. During the first week of January 1991, the burn unit staff reported that Fire Fighter Jackson continued to show marked improvement in his extremely long road to recovery. His infections have subsided, his skin grafts have proven successful, and his burn injuries continue to heal well. As of this writing (January 10, 1991) he remains in a coma and his condition continues to be listed as serious but stable.
George Jackson never recovered from his injuries. He passed away on March 7, 2006.
Camden Courier-Post * July 19, 2009
PROSSER, Sr. Richard Cornell, On July 17, 2009, of Millsboro, DE, formerly of Glendora. Age 68. Beloved husband of Joan K. (nee Browoleit). Devoted father of Richard, Jr. (Nicole), Joseph John, and Paul (Joann). Loving grandfather of Natalie Michelle, Amanda Gail, Tyler Joseph and Tina Mary. Dear brother of Daniel Prosser and the late Dorothy and Gail. Also survived by many nieces and nephews. Mr. Prosser was a member of the Gibbsboro American Legion. He was a Camden City Firefighter, formerly serving as Captain and retired from the Fire Marshal's office. There will be a viewing from 10 to 10:45am Thursday morning at St. Teresa's RC Church, Black Horse Pike & Evesham Rd., Runnemede. Funeral Mass 11am in Church. Interment St. Joseph's Cemetery, Chews Landing. Family requests in lieu of flowers donations be made in Mr. Prosser's memory to the American Cancer Society , 1851 Old Cuthbert Rd., Cherry Hill, NJ 08034. Expressions of sympathy may be e-mailed to Condolences@gardnerfuneralhome.com .
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