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Blaze Destroys Lawrence House, Damages Two Others

The two-alarm inferno early Monday sent flames and smoke skyward over Fountayne Lane.

Update: 5:40 a.m. Aug. 13:

Smoke detectors are being credited with saving the lives of two men who, thanks to the warning provided by the fire safety devices, managed to escape to safety moments before flames engulfed their Lawrence Township home early today (Monday, Aug. 13).

“No doubt about it. Smoke detectors saved two lives tonight,” Mercer County First Assistant Fire Marshal Jim Greschak said about 3 a.m. today as he stood opposite the smoldering ruins of what, just hours earlier, had been a two-story home in the 100 block of Fountayne Lane, off Lawrence Station Road.

The two-alarm blaze – which was reported to Lawrence Township police about 12:20 a.m. – destroyed the one home and, for a time, threatened to consume the homes next-door on either side. But thanks to the efforts of volunteer firefighters spraying water from multiple hoses on the ground and from the tips of two raised ladders, the two neighboring homes were saved and sustained mostly only exterior siding damage from the blaze’s intense radiant heat.

The owner of the destroyed home suffered burns to his face, but declined transport to a hospital, fire officials said. The man’s name was not immediately available.

The cause of the blaze is currently under investigation by township police and fire officials, along with the Mercer County Fire Marshal’s Office and the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office.

Slackwood Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Michael Oakley, who directed firefighting efforts, said the homeowner told investigators he was awake reading in his bedroom at the rear, second-floor of the house when a battery-operated smoke detector went off.

Believing it to be a false alarm likely caused by a dying battery, the man went downstairs to retrieve a fresh battery, Oakley said. Oakley said the home’s primary hard-wired fire alarm system then began to sound and homeowner encountered smoke as he descended the stairs to the first floor.

The homeowner told investigators that flames shot out, the heat burning his face, when he opened a door leading into the home’s laundry room, according to Oakley. With the laundry room and garage already ablaze, the homeowner roused the only other person in the house at the time – his father – and the two fled outside with the family dog. Once outside, the dog ran off and, amid the chaos that followed, could not immediately be located.

Officials said the homeowner’s wife and children were out of town.

Oakley said volunteers from the Slackwood and Lawrence Road fire companies were initially dispatched to investigate a fire alarm activation called in by the company that monitors that property’s alarm system.

But township Police Officer Shaun Sexton, who at the time happened to be on patrol on nearby Bakers Basin Road, arrived on Fountayne Lane in under a minute and advised responding firefighters that they had a “working structure fire.”

With confirmation of a real fire, Mercer County’s fire communications center – ironically located on Lawrence Station Road just down the street from the fire scene – immediately dispatched additional personnel from Lawrenceville Volunteer Fire Co., Prospect Heights and Pennington Road volunteer fire companies from Ewing Township, and Hamilton Township Fire District 4. An ambulance crew from Lawrence Township Emergency Medical Service was also dispatched.

Firefighters arrived on the scene just minutes after the first police officer did. By then, the house was engulfed in fire, with flames leaping dozens of feet into the night sky, sending smoke and embers billowing even further.

Realizing that the first house was beyond saving, fire crews concentrated their efforts on protecting the homes next-door. Firefighters dragged hoses into position to spray water on the sides of the neighboring homes whose siding had already started to melt and smoke. Meanwhile, water was rained down on the engulfed house from the nozzles at the tips of the raised aerials of Lawrenceville’s Telesquirt 23 and Hamilton’s Ladder 14.

Large diameter hoses connected to three hydrants in the neighborhood supplied the water for the firefighting efforts.

At one point, a propane cylinder on the back deck of the engulfed house exploded, sending some firefighters ducking for cover. The roof and other interior portions of that house soon collapsed as the flames ate away their support.

Ultimately, the blaze was brought under control within an hour, with the flames stopped from spreading into the neighboring homes. But firefighters continued to flow water on the smoldering ruins of the first house until about 4 a.m.

Officials said residents of the neighboring houses were allowed back into houses after firefighters confirmed there was no fire spread and a township building inspector deemed them safe. The displaced residents of the destroyed house, meanwhile, declined the services of the American Red Cross and made their own arrangements to stay elsewhere.

Investigating the fire are township police Detective James Smith, township Fire Marshal Dale Robbins, Greschak from the county fire marshal’s office and Detective Gary Wasko from the county prosecutor’s office.  

 

Original post, 1:38 a.m. Aug. 13:

Firefighters battled a raging blaze at a Fountayne Lane house early Monday morning.

The house, off Lawrence Station Road, was engulfed in flames around 12:25 a.m. and two nearby homes were damaged. Smoke and burning embers were carried several stories into the air.

Small explosions could be heard from the fire and smoke could be seen throughout the area.

This story will be updated as more information is available.

 

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barbara August 13, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Thank god no one was seriously hurt. It was terrifying to wake up to the screeching sirens and numerous responders to then be met by the sight of flames soaring to the sky so close to my own home. My heart goes out to the family. I was impressed by the efforts of all.
Fountayne Lane Resident August 13, 2012 at 05:35 PM
The firefighters did a great job but they arrived very late. They got the water flowing about 25 minutes after the first call. The first truck that arrived was malfuctioning ant the firefighters didn't know how to get it going. Then when the second truck arrived it started spraying water. I live very close by and I saw all this happen. By the time they got the water going the whole house was already in flames.
Liberty green neighbor August 13, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Folks, One of the fire fighters mentioned that cars parked along the islands on Fountayne Ln somewhat delayed fire trucks trying to maneuver around islands in Liberty Green. Remember it could have been anyone's house & we need to address this. He also mentioned that dryer vents are a known issue in this development although we don't know cause of this particular fire. We should get those cleaned on a regular basis. However I agree that firefighters had water flowing no less than 25 minutes. Remember it can be anyone else & may have Kids or elders trapped inside. 25 minutes is just not acceptable.
Cowboy August 13, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Thanks to the LPD and the Slackwood Chief. You are all awesome!
myvox August 13, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Eliminate those island! and replace them with proper parking...this is a wake up call..
sara August 13, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Yes the firefighters arrived very late after almost 25 mins and within 35 mins of the fire the house was completely destroyed. It was really sad to watch the whole house go down but thankfully no one was hurt.
Bingo August 13, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Correct me if I am wrong, but aren't these firemen all volunteers at that time of night. So they have to wake up from a sound sleep, get dressed, go to their cars, drive to the firehouse without getting ottoman accident, then they have to put all of their gear on, then respond. Also all three stations I believe are quite a ways from the development. Let someone post the facts about response times before we chastize them. I live out of town, but it sounds like they did the best they could. Thats what is wrong with today's society. Hey all you people complaining about reinsert, get off your butts and volunteer at one of the stations, so you can see what it's really like responding to a fire
A Guy August 13, 2012 at 11:06 PM
I must agree with Bingo. Instead of talking about it over the internet, get up and go to one of the 3 stations and help make a difference and help improve this problem! Hell, a few months back people were on this site complaining how the volunteers drive way to fast responding to fire scenes. So which is it? Too fast, too slow? Too many people want to sit around and throw their two cents in the mix but don't want to help the cause and make a difference. Ok, you don't want to volunteer and want a 24/7 paid department in Lawrence?? Suggest that to council who is unfortunately laying off multiple cops and terminated the two fire positions that were created to assist in fire response. Bottomline.. There is no money! How about a fire tax? Sounds great now, until you have to start paying for that fire tax to support the round the clock response and then get to see people crying about taxes. Someone's house burned down last night and I am so sorry for the homeowner that lost everything he had. Its sad and terrible thing, but what's even worse is the fact that people have to point the finger at the individuals who responded to the fire, put their lives on the line to help their fellow resident in need and in every effort to save their property. To the firefighters, thank you for all you do and I am sure you did all that could have been done last night especially with saving the other two neighboring homes.
A Fountayne Laner August 14, 2012 at 12:22 AM
The firefighters are a force for good, and should be thanked accoringly. The community spirit is a force for good, and is ready and willing to help out.
LawrencevilleMom August 14, 2012 at 12:55 AM
This is a constant and self-inflicted issue. This was on the single family side of the neighborhood, where virtually every house has garage space for 2 cars and driveway space for 2 more cars, yet residents constantly park in the road and often on curves. (I can think of one car in particular that is just asking to be wrecked.) There should be no overnight parking on the street permitted. Also, I witnessed fire fighters asking residents to get out of the middle of the street to clear the way for the hose and in case more rescue vehicles were needed. More than half a dozen people ignored them completely. This was not the evening's entertainment. It was a family's catastrophe.
MH August 14, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Hi- this is so devastating for the family. Does anyone know them? Should we start a collection of food? Toys? I think they have kids... A good opportunity for us to join forces and be neighborly....
Joie August 14, 2012 at 01:04 AM
The fire last night was such a scary sight! I was so grateful when I ran up to find out that the family was safe while I could see very distraught. I am glad that every effort was made to keep everyone safe and what was really nice to see was the concern that everyone in the neighborhood had for each other. We live in such a big beautiful community and after 10 years of living here, I felt like this was one of the first times the community really came together. I know out of this tragedy, God will restore this family and thier residence, but I hope that it also unifies the community even more! Thanking the fire fighters, neighbors who called and came out and gave words of encouragement and concern, but mostly thankful that the families are alive and well! God bless!
Joie August 14, 2012 at 01:20 AM
great idea.. I live close and know the fam.. I will find out what we can do.. I am sure all of us our feeling this way
Fountayne Ln neighbor August 14, 2012 at 01:23 AM
Brilliant emotional people, this is not a political debate. Very simple.... in case you find it too cumbersome to understand. National average for fire response is 9 minutes. We live in central new jersey not Idaho. If you think 25 minutes is acceptable to you, good for you brilliant people. I wish you best of luck in case you've family members trapped. Let's see if you're still singing blind praises on that day. By the way, if it's a tax issue, I agree that needs to be fixed. I have to admit I didn't know we didn't have staffed 24-7 fire department.
Kershaw August 14, 2012 at 02:04 AM
I recently moved fr Burlington county to Lawrence ..my neighbors house was on fire..it seemed like an eternity when it really wasn't. The fire fighters there r my heros...not to mention they bring Santa around in the ffreezing cold leaving their family and kids behind to treat us ..next time u when u c a fire truck maybe u should show thanks and not ignorance
Whiterose August 14, 2012 at 02:15 AM
The fire fighters had done a great job for our community. We should say thank you for their help instead of complaining about how late or fast.
Just Saying August 14, 2012 at 02:56 AM
It's always the ones who don't have a clue, the non volunteers, who are the most critical. Rather then complaining. Do something about it. Stand up and make a change. Go to your local firehouse and volunteer. Then you can talk. Until then, learn to be grateful.
Blueline August 14, 2012 at 04:24 AM
Hey genius, drive from the house (which is in the back of the development) to the nearest fire house. I bet it will take you around 12 minutes to get there- with no traffic and getting all green lights. Add in the response time from their homes. I believe you will find that the response was proper. If you don't like it, call the twp manager who buried the survey done several years back that PROVED that the response times were inadequate to that portion of the town and that the substation in LSV needed to be staffed and equipped. Oh, and when you time out your drive to the nearest fire station, just realize that it actually ISN'T the primary district fire station for where you live. That one is about another 5-7 minutes away. So instead of complaining, start thanking. OR get you ass on the truck yourself.
CVAMe August 14, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Aside from response times, I would like to take a moment and explain to those residents living in the area about your home. You reside in a home that is made up of light weight wood frame construction. These types of homes are notorious for rapid fire spread because of the materials and meathods used to quickly and cheaply build your house. Void spaces hidden behind walls and ceilings promote this spread which is normally hidden from view and travels to several floors undected. Newer materials used in construction, burn hotter and ignite at incredible rates. The time in which these structures collapse or becomce untenable for residents and firefighter alike is only but minutes. It is unfortunate, but losses such as this have become common place in America. Don't believe me? Look it up, its incredible what you will find. By all rights, the opportunity for the loss of three homes that night was enormous, the fire department did a phenomial job at protecting the adjacent houses to the one that fully involved with fire, and should be commended for their actions. How can you protect yourself? Prevention. Check your smoke detectors, change your batteries, residential sprinkler systems, and clean your dryer vents frequently. Not everyone can have a fire truck in front of theire house, but with an ounce of forethought you can protect yourself until the arrival of those trained to help during such a catastrophe. Sleep tight, hope this helps shed some light on the matter.
pridesouthof95 August 14, 2012 at 03:35 PM
CVAMe Great point!! people understand that your house is designed to kill firefighters.....How does that make you feel???? knowing that a car is in the driveway and they assume your home at midnight and as they make it to your room it all comes in on them!! (all the while for FREE!!!!!) Lawrencevillefire.org has a few links on their site that on my free time i looked at.....not haveing a fire background but friends in it, It really opened my eyes to what they put the crews into just to findout that no one was home!! As for all of you.... ITS 2012 AND MONEY IS SUPER TIGHT! VOLUNTEER VOLUNTEER VOLUNTEER. Alos fun fact for you nah sayers.. fire trucks have speed limiters built in for safety most trucks cannot go over 60mph. The fire sites have alot of info check it out!!
Kershaw August 14, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Wanna complain ? READ CVAME and PRIDESOUTHOF and then you will probably reconsider. Also to my knowledge wasn't there a substation close by in Lawrence square village but had to shut down because there weren't enough residents Around there volunteering?
Truth_Be_Told August 14, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Thank You For This Comment - this is All Very True
Whiterose August 14, 2012 at 11:36 PM
we just got the donation letter today when we came back from work...It really made me happy since our family have been planning to donate to the family who lost their home.......
Liberty green resident August 15, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Keep trying emotional distractions (Santa, Respect, Volunteerism etc) but people in this town are highly educated & smart professionals. We do understand what you're trying to do. So you can try running for political office or something. We'll have another clown to laught at on TV. We're having a serious discussion about safety of residents especially children & elderly. Folks, prevention is one thing however accidents do happen. Fact remains fire department didn't show up for 25 minutes & unlike emotional distractions, 911 calls & other records will prove FACTS. Perhaps ask fire chief if 25 min is acceptable & then see if residents of town accept that. If they do, we'll accept that. Also no one is disrespecting fire fighters nor is against them. They in fact show up almost always within 5-7 minutes whenever smoke alarms go off in this development. However something broke somewhere this time that needs to be investigated so it does not happen again. Keep in mind it was mid night so traffic wasn't an issue & also fire training center is right next door & one of the trucks just had to come from there.
Joe smith August 15, 2012 at 01:47 AM
If you read the other patch post the fire trucks showed up 12mins after getting the call. They aren't mind readers to know when there is a fire. So instead of saying the fire trucks didn't show up for 25mins maybe you should say is why did it take so long to have the 911 call transferred to the fire dispatcher to let firefighters know there was a fire. And If the fire was so big and you say people called way before 12:20am and smoke detector saved their lives then why didn't the fire department get called sooner with the fire alarm going off.
Joe smith August 15, 2012 at 01:49 AM
And after stopping and talking to firefighters today there is no fire trucks that respond to fires at the training center
vol. emt and firefighter August 15, 2012 at 03:46 PM
for everyone that is complaining about the response times, id like to see any of you get up in the middle of your night sleep to go out and save someones elses house. when someone calls 911 it takes about 2-3 minutes for county central to tone out fire depts. then about 7-10 for members to respond the the fire house get their turnout gear and roll a truck. then they have to arrive on scene and find the nearest fire hydrant. unless you have done any of that, you have no right to say anything. volunteers sacrifice so much for everyone in their town. you guys really have no idea what they give up so i suggest you stop talking
Mike Hawk August 15, 2012 at 05:06 PM
OK. You are done. I've asked you nicely!
Elaina August 15, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Way to go Vol. EMT/Firefighter :) My husband used to be a volunteer for Lawrenceville. I remember the nights when his pager would go off, he'd jump out of bed, get dress and head to the station. That in itself takes time, so you are right about the response times. They don't know what goes into being a volunteer so they shouldn't complain until they know what its like to walk in your shoes!! Thank you for all your hard work!!
Elesa August 16, 2012 at 03:19 AM
I received an email describing what the family needs. I thought I would share. Right now, they are in MOST NEED of the following: Gift Card Donations: Kids need to get ready for school, they have no supplies, no computers, no clothes, no sports equipment (both Kyle and Will play soccer for their respective schools) and they will be living in a hotel for a while. The following stores would be helpful as a suggestion: Staples, Best Buy, Dick's Sporting Goods, Shop Rite, Wegman's, Jos A Banks, Old Navy, Quakerbride Mall, GAP, local restaurants One thing they do not need is household or clothing donations. They will be living in a hotel for a while and will have no place to store these.

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