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Roof Collapses in Ewing Street Fire, Princeton Home Uninhabitable

Crews from around the region responded to the fire Saturday afternoon.


Fire investigators were on the scene Saturday evening of a fire that ripped through a home at 431 Ewing St. in Princeton Township around 3:15 p.m.

Princeton Fire Investigator Charles Sugge said the fire appears to be accidential and the home is uninhabitable. 

Two firefighters suffered injuries - heat exhaustion and a knee injury - but the family inside the home escaped without injury, according to fire investigators.

The blaze started as a vacuum cleaner was operating outside, sucking up dust from the home after the homeowner sanded the wood floors inside, Sugge said. The homeowner's young son noticed the flames, which quickly spread to the siding and up to the roof. 

Mark Freda, a member of the Princeton Fire Department, was driving down Harrison Street when he saw the smoke and quickly called it in on his radio. 

"The whole section of the house was on fire, from the ground up to the roof," Freda said.

The homeowner was trying to put out the blaze with an extinguisher while the rest of the family, including a mother, two small children and a dog, were still inside, he said.

"I yelled at them to get out of the house," Freda said. "Then he [the father] went back in and I chased him out."

Firefighters on the scene battled the blaze in temperatures that reached more than 90 degrees Saturday afternoon. Rescue workers monitored firefighters' vital signs and gave them water.

Princeton Fire Chief Dan Tomalin said he called for extra crews to rotate firefighters more quickly, given the extreme heat. 

"It's tough on the guys, I called a second alarm pretty quick," Tomalin said. 

Crews first tried to get to the attic where the blaze had spread, but it was difficult and firefighters had to move into a defensive mode for a short time to get the fire under control. Shortly thereafter, the roof collapsed, Tomalin said. 

Small flames were visible on the second floor around 4 p.m., with smoke pouring out of the top of the house. The fire was under control by 4:09 p.m., according to Princeton Township Police.

Princeton Fire Investigator Ron DiLapo said the family had just purchased the Ewing Street home.

"They were trying to fix it up before moving in," DiLapo said. 

The family, whose names were not immediately released, has found temporary lodging.

Companies including the Kingston Volunteer Fire Company, Princeton Junction Fire Department, Plainsboro Fire Company, Montgomery Township Volunteer Fire Company #46, Rocky Hill Volunteer Fire Company, Hopewell Fire Department, Pennington Fire Company, Robbinsville Fire Department, East Windsor Volunteer Fire Company, Lawrence Road Volunteer Fire Company and Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory responded to the blaze.

The Princeton Township Police Department and the Princeton Bureau of Fire Safety and Housing Inspection are investigating the cause of the fire.

Jay on Charlton Street July 01, 2012 at 07:57 PM
That is terrible. My wife was working at macaffreys and I was at the p recreation pool when the fire truck left the station next to conte's. It was exactly 315pm That They rolled so mark freda did a good job. She said it smelled in the store itself, an awful burning smell so it must have been a heck of a fire. Peace, out, bird
William M. Kramer July 02, 2012 at 06:13 PM
I commend the Princeton Fire Department for bringing this stubborn fire under control rather quickly. Some recent re-organizational efforts in the fire department assured an adequate crew on the first responding vehicle along with operational improvements at the scene. Bill Kramer
Hannah July 03, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Congrats to Mark Freda and our Princeton Fire Department. A bad house fire with no loss of life...kudos.

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