Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Two Evacuations, No Big Deal

The Plainfield Fire Division responded Tuesday (Oct. 18, 2005) to two incidents downtown that displaced employees for a time.

The new governmental office building was evacuated around 11:30 a.m. after fire alarms went off. Dozens of employees wearing ID badges stood at Park Avenue and Front Street outside the building, while others took advantage of the controversial downtown benches across the street to sit and chat while awaiting the all-clear.

The building contains state and county offices upstairs and commercial space downstairs. White strobe lights could be seen flashing inside the Chase Bank office that just held a grand opening Saturday.

A worker for Union County Social Services said the agency had been there since May without incident.

An employee of the state Division of Youth and Family Services said the agency had just returned to Plainfield after a four-year hiatus in Cranford. The agency was forced to move from an unsuitable building on Park Avenue, but due to litigation over Green Acres issues, the project was held up for months, forcing the relocation to Cranford.

“This is a beautiful building,” she said. “I hope everything is OK.”

The employee declined to be quoted by name, as state rules forbid direct contact with the media.

Union County Police were in charge for the evacuation, but did not respond to a call for information on the incident.

Captain Jeff Courtney of the Plainfield Fire Division said the incident at the county building was caused by dust in a smoke detector.

At 1:25 p.m., Courtney said, firefighters were back at the neighborhood after a suspicious package was reported at PNC Bank, south of the county office building. The package proved to be a bag of clothing. No further response was required.

The last big scare was on July 18, 2005 when Union County pulled out all the stops, bringing in the Union County Bomb Squad to investigate a suspicious fire in a mail box outside City Hall. The building was evacuated while U.S. Postal Service, county and local authorities investigated the incident.

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: evacuation