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Ridgefield Honors Five Fireman Killed In Bowling Alley Blaze 50 Years Ago

Each anniversary, memorial wreaths are placed at the '"Five Firemen" monument outside Co. 2 on Bergen Boulevard.
Each anniversary, memorial wreaths are placed at the '"Five Firemen" monument outside Co. 2 on Bergen Boulevard. Photo Credit: COURTESY: unyquefiretrucks.com

RIDGEFIELD, N.J. -- Fifty years since one of the darkest days in their 125-year-old borough's history, Ridgefield residents will honor five firefighting heroes who died in a Cliffside Park bowling alley blaze.

The Little League field off Route 5 will be rededicated with a softball game between the Ridgefield and Cliffside Park firefighters and special remembrances at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 15, the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Cardinal Lanes Bowling Alley arson fire.

These will include the placement of remembrance wreaths at the monument and a fire truck precessional through town.

Dozens of firefighters from throughout the eastern Bergen area who responded to the single-story Anderson Avenue building around 4 a.m. found smoke pouring from all sides.

The Ridgefield crew had stretched two hose lines to a rear door and headed in when an explosion collapsed the truss roof, toppling a concrete wall.

Killed were:

  • Chief Gustave A. Genschow, 43, a 27-year veteran who owned a local tavern;
  • Firefighter Dominick Acquafredda, 31, a four-year veteran who worked at the Lever Brothers plant in Edgewater; Firefighter Harry Brown, 26, a five-year veteran who worked for the New York Daily News;
  • Firefighter James Edwards III, 35, who managed a trading stamp store;
  • Firefighter James Lauria, 60, then Ridgefield's building inspector.

A civilian and 10 other firefighters also were injured as 130 of the bravest from eight communities battled the blaze.

The dead were identified at that Sunday morning's Mass at St. Matthew's Church.

Fourteen children under 21 years old were left fatherless. Some became firefighters, just like their dads.

Outside the Co. 2 firehouse is a monument with a silver bell ( see photo ). Each anniversary, memorial wreaths are placed there.

Plaques also honor the fallen heroes in firehouses, the library, Borough Hall and other facilities throughout the borough.

There's also a scrapbook with photos and stories about the fire, the American flag that covered Korean War veteran Edwards's casket and the framed retired badges of Co. 2's Acquafredda, Brown, Edwards and Lauria.

MORE INFO: Contact Fire Chief Pete O'Connor at (201) 943-5355 or fivefiremenmemorial@gmail.com .

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