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'Suspicious' Fire Breaks out at Belleville Landmark

Firefighter hospitalized battling blaze at former cancer center Monday

A firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion Monday after he helped battle a blaze at the former Garden State Cancer Center in Belleville.

Belleville firefighters responded after receiving a report from Belleville police of  smoke coming from the massive stone complex located at the corner of Belleville and Franklin avenues. The two-alarm fire, which was confined to a single room on the third floor, was brought under control around 6 pm, about forty minutes after firefighters arrived, Battalion Chief Michael Monahan said.

Firefighters working in shifts were seen climbing a ladder to a second-story roof and entering a window on the third floor of an adjacent eight-story building, the largest in the complex, where the fire broke out.

Also providing mutual aid at the scene were crews from the Bloomfield and Nutley departments.

The blaze broke out in a complex that has been vacant since its former owner, the Garden State Cancer Center, closed down last year. The building has since reverted to the County of Essex.

Trespassing has been a problem in the past at the facility and may have been a factor in Monday’s blaze.

“It’s a suspicious fire,” Monahan said, adding that the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office would be conducting an investigation.

Shortly before Thanksgiving the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders voted to auction off the 100-year-old complex, which sits on a huge open campus known as “the Great Lawn.”

The county expects to receive bids this month and is scheduled to review them early next year, a freeholder board spokesman told Patch last week.

Anonymous December 12, 2012 at 07:25 AM
Because it's not worth it.
Nelson Barrera December 12, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Total and shameful waste of property!!! I don't understand and this morning when i left for work and drove thru main street, it was depressing to look at across the street from Kmart to the empty shopping strip by Food Basics, every business is closing and nothing new comes about. Belleville future seems very scary!!
Nelson Barrera December 12, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Not to rehash the mentioning of School No 1, yet another empty property for years and not put to use for the better of Belleville and it's residents.
john reese December 12, 2012 at 02:32 PM
why does the town not try to keep it and turn it into a senior citizen building which this town does not have.there are many seniours and also eligible people who could use the comfort of a senior citizen apt for not only financial reasons but many other reasons.also it would help any disabled person living on a low income to have affordable housing.
Ruth February 17, 2013 at 10:48 PM
You're so right-on John! Belleville does not seem to have the foresight to invest in a better future for it's citizens! School #1 needs to be re-purposed for the benefit of the Town....another thing, why was the Dutch Reformed Church allowed to deteriorate? Why wasn't it listed as an historical tour site and it's graveyard maintained with honor. Volunteer's can't do it all! The town administrator's need to get behind a long term "visionary" commitment to restoring Belle-ville's Pride in Place! Hoping Mr.Bloom's plans for Washington Ave. are over the top & fabulous!

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