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Fountayne Lane Firefighter Response Times Reviewed

Contrary to claims that it took Lawrence Township volunteer firefighters up to 25 minutes to respond, official response records show that three fire engines were on scene within 12 minutes of firefighters first being alerted to the blaze.

It took Lawrence Township volunteer firefighters less than 12 minutes after they were first alerted to the blaze to get three fully-staffed fire engines on the scene of the inferno that destroyed one home and damaged two others on Fountayne Lane early Monday morning (Aug. 13), according to official response records obtained by Lawrenceville Patch.

The question of how long it took firefighters to respond was raised by readers of Patch’s previous coverage of the fire. Some readers on Monday posted comments alleging that it took firefighters as much as 25 minutes to arrive.

According to the official incident report from Mercer County Central Communications – the county agency responsible for dispatching and coordinating fire responses in Lawrence Township and most other municipalities in the county – the company in charge of monitoring the alarm system in the home at 126 Fountayne Lane called the county dispatch center at 12:20 a.m. Monday to report that the automated fire alarm system in the house had just gone off.

After being advised by the alarm monitoring company that a smoke detector had been activated, a 911 operator at Mercer County Central confirmed the address and then, at 12:22 a.m., dispatched the Slackwood and Lawrence Road volunteer fire companies to 126 Fountayne Lane to investigate the reason for the alarm activation.

Lawrence Township’s three fire companies are entirely volunteer, meaning that their firehouses are not manned around the clock like the stations of career – or paid – fire departments. Instead, volunteer firefighters – if they are available at the time – respond from their homes or wherever they might be when needed.

Four career firefighters who work 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding holidays, are currently employed by Lawrence Township to staff one fire engine during the work week when most volunteer firefighters are unavailable due to their full-time work commitments.

The township had planned to hire two additional firefighters this year to help ensure qualified personnel were on duty during the work week to drive the volunteers’ fire engines and operate their complex pumping systems – since only a limited number of volunteers are available to do so – but those positions are being eliminated as part of as a result of the township’s ongoing financial problems.        

So Slackwood and Lawrence Road volunteer firefighters, awakened at 12:22 a.m. by the beeping of their fire company pagers, climbed out of bed, dressed and drove from their homes to their respective firehouses. Once at the firehouses, they donned they protective turnout gear and boarded their fire engines to make the drive to Fountayne Lane, which is located off Lawrence Station Road in the eastern-most corner of the township.

Lawrence Township Police Officer Shaun Sexton, meanwhile, was busy responding in his patrol car to check out a separate 911 call that township police happened to receive from the neighborhood at 12:20 a.m. reporting a possible vehicle fire on Fountayne Lane.

Not only did Sexton find a vehicle ablaze in the driveway, he arrived to find the entire house at 126 Fountayne Lane engulfed in flames, police said.

Sexton’s report of a “working structure fire” was relayed by Lawrence police to Mercer County Central Communications, which in turn, at 12:24 a.m., alerted already-responding Slackwood and Lawrence Road volunteers and also dispatched additional crews from Lawrenceville Volunteer Fire Co., Prospect Heights and Pennington Road volunteer fire companies from Ewing Township, and Hamilton Township Fire District 4.

In Lawrence Township and many other municipalities served by volunteer firefighters, as a matter of safety, a fire apparatus must be manned by a minimum of four firefighters before it can respond.

Hamilton’s Ladder 14 – the only unit to respond to Fountayne Lane Monday morning that was staffed by career firefighters – left its firehouse on East State Street at 12:26 a.m., according to response records.

Also responding at 12:26 a.m. with a full crew of volunteers, just four minutes after the first dispatch, was Lawrence Road’s Engine 22 from its firehouse on Route 206. Slackwood’s Engine 21 left its quarters on Slack Avenue, also fully-staffed, at 12:27 a.m., while Lawrenceville’s Telesquirt 23 responded with a full crew from its Phillips Avenue firehouse at 12:29 a.m.

At 12:29 a.m., according to response records, Lawrence Road Fire Chief Shaun Dlabik arrived on the scene and radioed that flames were shooting through the roof of 126 Fountayne Lane. Less than a minute later, Dlabik was joined on the scene by Lawrenceville Fire Chief Gary Wasko and Slackwood Fire Chief Michael Oakley.

At 12:33 a.m., after maneuvering along the narrow lane lined with parked cars that is the only way in and out of the development, Engine 21, Telesquirt 23 and Engine 22 all arrived on the scene one after the other, according to response records.

Ladder 14 arrived at 12:34 a.m., followed by Lawrenceville’s Ladder Tower 23 at 12:38 a.m., Slackwood’s Snorkel 21 at 12:39 a.m. and Lawrence Road’s Rescue 22 at 12:41 a.m.

Prospect Heights' Engine 31 and Pennington Road’s Rescue 32 arrived a few minutes after that.

Firefighting efforts were chaotic in the first minutes, as different hoselines were dragged into position to spray water on the neighboring homes being threatened by the raging flames and firefighters set up the stabilizing jacks to raise Telesquirt 23’s 65-foot ladder and Ladder 14’s 104-foot aerial so water could be rained down upon the engulfed house.

Engine 21’s onboard 800-gallon tank and Telesquirt 23’s own 500-gallon tank supplied the initial water used to fight the flames. After that, thousands of gallons of water were supplied by three hydrants in the neighborhood. Nearly 2,000 feet of large diameter hose was laid and used to flow water from those hydrants to the fire engines.

By 12:41 a.m., according to response records, the roof at the rear of 126 Fountayne Lane had collapsed. A propane cylinder on the rear deck also exploded.

The blaze was officially declared under control at 1:11 a.m. but firefighters continued to flow water on the smoldering ruins of 126 Fountayne Lane for several hours.

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


Response Times:

Shown in the chart below are the various pieces of firefighting apparatus that responded to the blaze, along with the time that each unit was dispatched, went responding and arrived at the fire scene. Also shown are the times for the chief officers of each of Lawrence Township's three volunteer fire companies.

Other units that responded (such as fire company deputy chiefs and other officers, ambulances, PSE&G utility crews and investigators) are not listed in this chart.

All times are taken directly from the official incident report generated by Mercer County Central Communications.

All entries are listed in military time, with 00 representing 12 a.m. Times are given in the hour/minute/second format.    





Chief 22




Chief 21




Chief 23




Engine 22




Engine 21




Telesquirt 23




Rescue 22




Ladder Tower 23




Snorkel 21








Ladder 14




Engine 31




Rescue 32




Fire Station Identifiers:

  • Station 21: Slackwood Volunteer Fire Co., 21 Slack Ave., Lawrence Township
  • Station 22: Lawrence Road Volunteer Fire Co., 1252 Lawrence Rd., Lawrence Township
  • Station 23: Lawrenceville Volunteer Fire Co., 64 Phillips Ave., Lawrence Township
  • Station 14: Hamilton Township Fire District #4, 1805 E. State St., Hamilton Township
  • Station 31: Prospect Heights Volunteer Fire Co., 1660 Ninth St., Ewing Township
  • Station 32: Pennington Road Volunteer Fire Co., 1666 Pennington Rd., Ewing Township  
Michele Hlewicki August 15, 2012 at 03:32 AM
http://mybigfatfamilyblog.wordpress.com/2012/08/14/burning/ as a lifelong resident if this town, i invite you to read what it feels like, from my point of view to serve and this town. as friends of the family who just lost their home i would like you all to shut up and figure out a productive way to help them. and at this point maybe the most productive thing you can do is shut up
One of You August 15, 2012 at 03:49 AM
First of all, it's a worst nightmare for anyone living in match boxes that we live in. Everyone is grateful that no lives were lost and fire contained at one house. I know at least 3 people who live around / next to the unlucky house who swear the time it took for any real action to start. Please - this is not against any one person or the brave fire fighters, it is a combination of so many things which could have resulted in this response time... I live in the same community and worry about these : 1. Will 25+ minutes be always the best time any other incident might get ? 2. Why has the parking been allowed on the curb, especially around the islands? Shouldn't it be against the fire code? 3. This is clearly an unacceptable overall response time (no offense to the brave firemen), but something is either wrong in the community's approach road design, I am hoping this is not the best response time Fire fighters team, and specially the chiefs or anyone else who who is a senior person on the team, can something be done to improve the response time, keeping in mind how quickly the whole whole dwelling got charred down in this incident. I am again relieved that no one got seriously hurt, it could have been much worse and we need to know what can be done to make it better.
rc12 August 15, 2012 at 04:00 AM
1.The response times clearly aren't much of an issue and under National standards by almost a minute. 2. The lack of water was because of the water supply system in this particular neighborhood.It is what is commonly referred to as a " loop" system, the water basically flows in a circle pattern in that neighborhood with only one main feeding it ,so when you open one hydrant and then one down the street you are using the same water and essentially "rob Peter to pay Paul". 3. The rapid fire spread in this house is because of the way these homes are constructed it is called light weight construction, truss construction and less the 2x4 construction allows the fire to spread quickly in these types of homes.There is not an issue with type of construction in being sub par it is the strongest way to build homes cost effectively but they do not stand up well to fire. Its a miracle that more than one house did not burn because in prior incidents around the country with this amount of fire the average loss is around 3 home. So how do you stop this from happening ? Push your legislators to for residential sprinklers or be pro active and get them installed yourself.Builders frequently block attempts to make residential sprinklers law because of cost but really it is minimal about an additional $500 per house. What really matters is that no one died and property can be replaced but the issues raised have been answered
A Guy August 15, 2012 at 11:07 AM
Once again the response time was not an issue. You people keep bringing up the same points that have already been answered. Instead of talking about it on the website why don't you go to the township and complain. Leave the discussion of the fire service to the fire service personnel and the public safety committee. If you think you are an expert there are applications available at all 3 firehouses is for you to pick up, sign on the dotted line and apply.
Joe smith August 15, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Thanks to pridesouthof95. I looked at some of the fire service websites. A fire doubles in size every min. My question is how long did it burn inside the house before any fire was showing for a person outside to see. All you people keep pointing fingers at the firefighters response time. The official records show there was zero problem with that and iam sure thats the same paperwork and times that would be used in court. So if your going to point finger (that's what your doing even if you say your not) call the police department and find out how the 911 call was transferred and handled. An another thing fire trucks arent giant rolling garden hoses that you flick a switch and you have water. They need to be set up and that may very well take a few mins. Stop looking at Facebook and do alittle reading on how things work
Truth_Be_Told August 15, 2012 at 02:12 PM
if we had the man power... the township cut back on funding
DarkDan August 15, 2012 at 02:20 PM
That's exactly it Joe. Some of these folks fail to realize that setting up big water requires big hose and big appliances. This takes time and manpower. It's not the usual bedroom fire where you can stretch a small line right in the door and you're on your way. Then add to it, the first couple of crews are assigned to the priority at that type of incident which are the houses next to the fire. So while it may look like not much is going on to get big water onto what the on lookers feel is the priority, that just isn't the case. I think those who have serious questions should look up an officer from the one of the fire companies and find out how things actually work. Ask them what they need and how things work for different types of incidents. I'm sure they would be more than happy to have more people on the same page.
22milesofBS August 15, 2012 at 02:54 PM
facts about the Lawrence Township fire service and problems associated with this specific fire... - Lawrence Township's firefighting force is 100% volunteer in the evening, night, and weekend hours. -Lawrence Township fire houses are not equipped with bunk rooms for members to stay overnight. Members will be responding from their homes in the middle of the night. - the house on fire was located in the back of a large neighborhood that is not close to any firehouse. -the closest firehouse located at Lawrence Sq., Village was closed due to lack of  volunteers to keep in operation -As stated before newer construction houses such as these have the potential to collapse under fire conditions within five minutes -although it took several minutes for LATER arriving firetrucks to supply the aerial master streams on top of the first arriving apparatus the exposures were protected within minutes of fire apparatus arrival due to hand lines operated by firefighters on the ground which will deliver 220 gallon per minute each. Enough to keep the neighbors houses from igniting.
22milesofBS August 15, 2012 at 02:55 PM
-tight streets, poor water system, and mechanical failure due to an aging fleet of apparatus were factors in the hindrance of establishing a SECONDARY and TERTIARY water supply within a timeframe greater than expected. -when the fire department is faced with heavy fire conditions upon arrival such as this. It is the mission of the fire department to, not put water on the actual fire, but to protect exposures that are not involved in fire. To the laymen it may look as of the fire department is not doing their job because the fire continues to burn intensely in the original fire building, but in actuality firefighters had a handle on the fire almost immediately. It was this tactic that prevented the rest of the neighborhood from burning down. -the firefighters successfully executed operations set forth by the officers running the incident in a timely manner. This is the reason why the fire did not go to a greater alarm aka a special call for more personnel and apparatus then initially anticipated.  -All Lawrence Township firefighters and fire officers are trained to standards set by the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety. -Parking is a minimal issue compared to the overall layout of the neighborhood.  -the fire service is generally viewed as a walking, talking, living, breathing insurance policy and many people are not fans of paying insurance premiums. Volunteer firefighters in Lawrence Township generate a savings of 5%to 15% on property taxes.
Mike Hawk August 15, 2012 at 03:14 PM
This event is unfortunate. It always is very sad when someone loses their home, possessions (and in this case, dog) due to fire. Even with the official response and arrival statistics provided, blame is still being placed on the firefighters, shifting the complaints that “it took even longer” to “Put the wet stuff on the hot stuff”. It is amusing at best; that the very same Lawrence Residents, Patch.com Internet Trolls, vote down 2% budget increases, accept proposed Police and Fire Layoffs, yet complain when they need help and do not receive it in a timely manner – FOR FREE!!!!
Mike Hawk August 15, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Imagine this scenario: Officer Sexton wasn’t in the area, because his position was eliminated or he was re-assigned to a high-crime area, who would have reported the “Real Fire” as opposed to the alarm? What if the volunteer firefighter decided that his/her 7am work conference call was more important than responding to another “malfunctioning” alarm in the middle of the night?
SHSB August 15, 2012 at 03:16 PM
A few of you have asked what you can do to support us. I have a few suggestions: --Let the restrictions on our training activities at Dempster be lifted or at least modified to allow more live burn training. --Let the Township know that cutting our budget and personnel is unacceptable. (I have very vocally complained that there have been no cuts to activities at the Senior Center, yet they are cutting firefighter positions. Is having canasta AND yoga AND line dancing AND pinochle AND zumba for the seniors all more important than our fire service?) --Consider volunteering at your local fire company. If you can't volunteer as a firefighter, consider helping with fundraising or making a donation. --THANK us when we're out all night fighitng a fire in your neighborhood. Especially if it's on a weeknight and we have to show up at our paid jobs the next day.
Mike Hawk August 15, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Congratulations should be given to the firefighters, that the two other homes didn't also succumb to the flames. Plastic siding sometimes melts. Knowing this development, it could have easily gone down like dominoes - one after another.
Mike Hawk August 15, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Liberty Green - did you have a stopwatch out and really "time" how long it took for water flow? Also, "Ladder Trucks" don't flow water. Ladder Truck crews go into fires without water looking for idiots like you that were too dumb to leave! And everyone has a neighbor, that knows a neighbor that called much earlier!
SHSB August 15, 2012 at 03:25 PM
I have actually had to call my husband's boss and let him know that my husband is *still* out on a working fire call and I have no idea if and when he'll be at work that day. How many bosses and companies do you know of that would not tolerate that from their employees? I'm sure we can all think of or may have even had a boss or two that would have fired the employee for missing that conference call. Something else to think about before complaining about our volunteers--because in some cases they also risk their jobs when they risk their lives to volunteer.
Mike Hawk August 15, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Liberty Green - any comment you type or any word that comes out of your mouth disparages anyone - especially the firefighters.
Mike Hawk August 15, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Liberty Green, you now "appreciate" the efforts of the fire department, yet in your first post (and you were the first person to post and discount the official records) you said, and I quote you, ["assuming the official record is "accurate" it took them a long time to get water running from the fire hydrants into the fire engines and on to the house. I stood there for a good 15-20 minutes watching and waiting for them to start pumping significant amounts of water onto the fire"] I think a real public apology is in order. Also, a significant donation to ALL the volunteer fire departments is in order from you.
Mike Hawk August 15, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Chris... right on.
Mike Hawk August 15, 2012 at 03:49 PM
I also wish to ask of you, did your "Neighbor who called earlier than the response" speak English without an accent? Were they very excited and nervous when they called? Did they call from a land-line phone or cell phone?
Jessie Mia O'Pinyun August 15, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Thanks to our volunteers who responded about as quickly as can reasonably be expected, or quicker. Thanks to Mr. Ratcliffe for thoroughly documenting it for the public. If we didn't make mistakes, there wouldn't be fires. Nobody is immune. In the post-mortem, for those rightfully concerned with improving our safety and security, I suggest we go for some low-hanging fruit. One good place to start might be to consider: http://firesprinklerinitiative.org/resources/fact-sheets/about-anti-sprinkler-legislation.aspx You get what you pay for.
Mike Hawk August 15, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Liberty Green, I feel you need to disappear from this website and the internet all-together. I'll happily explain why. You posted, "mentions that the trucks were here in 12 minutes. This is not true. If the firefighters were sleeping at their homes then 12 minutes is impossible. If you think about it, a person has to get out of bed, put his clothes on, get in his own car, drive to the firestation, get in the trucks, then drive to scene. How can all this happen in 12 minutes." We all live close to our fire houses because we live in the town! We also respond fast (within minutes) because this is our passion! Saving lives is our passion. Fighting fires and saving lives is what we do, because no-one else does it. I think, if you live in the development, you shouldn't be second-guessing the FD. You should examine your own fire and life-safety systems, and make sure you and your family have a plan in place. Most importantly, consider, the comments you post., This is the internet, and you never know whom you may upset. Any Information Technology professional that is a volunteer in emergency services would strongly advise you to ensure you either contribute to a department or stop posting any opinion.
Mike Hawk August 15, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Nice Try! You are the FIRST person who cut down the fire department in this article! To remind you, here's what you posted, "assuming the official record is "accurate" it took them a long time to get water running from the fire hydrants into the fire engines and on to the house. I stood there for a good 15-20 minutes watching and waiting for them to start pumping significant amounts of water onto the fire. It was horrible watching the firefighters running a single hose of water from the ground for that 15-20 minutes before they got water running from 2 ladder trucks I suggest you to apologize for your comments, and post your contributions to the 3 fire companies in the township. I mean, it took SOOO Long" So, what needs to be addressed is an apology from you and a donation. So you know, some volunteers are Professionals that are proficient in computers and can and will identify you for who you are!
Mike Hawk August 15, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Liberty Green - knock it off - We all know what you said. -liberty green: "So assuming the official record is "accurate" it took them a long time to get water running from the fire hydrants into the fire engines and on to the house. I stood there for a good 15-20 minutes watching and waiting for them to start pumping significant amounts of water onto the fire."
Mike Hawk August 15, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Ah, and in the initial article, you posted this, "Liberty green neighbor 12:16 pm on Monday, August 13, 2012 We're grateful to our first responders however they started pitting out fire about 25 minutes after first receiving our calls. I live close by & had to call twice. Also despite no traffic at 12:30am, they reached no less than 15-20 minutes on the scene. I know house could not have been saved but what if someone was trapped inside? We expect better response time & plan to complain to the township.
R Patel August 15, 2012 at 07:42 PM
I witnessed the fire and salute the efforts made by the firefighters. I don't know why the response time of firefighters is being questioned when we know they wouldn't have stopped at Wawa to get a cup of coffee when the call came in. They got here as soon as humanly possible. It takes a lot of courage to hold the hose and advance towards the fire and it is very easy to hide behind an internet name and question everything because you pay few thousand dollar in taxes. If you have serious concerns or questions or even suggestions, then please approach the municipality and engage yourself in the process. If you really feel so upset about the end to end process then you should get involved and initiate the change. It can be canvassing door to door to get extra funding for firefighters or initiating a signature campaign to ask township to make changes or ask friends and family to volunteer so that Lawrence Sq Blvd fire company can be reopened. It is very easy to sit on a computer desk and criticize everything but it takes a lot to get out and make it happen. Do you think you have what it takes or will you keep hiding behind your computer?
Billy August 16, 2012 at 03:33 AM
i am surprised they got there 11 minutes after dispatch. It takes me almost 3 minutes just from the beginning of the neighborhood to where the house is; because of the traffic pattern and bumps regardless of cars blocking the road, And I drive a sports car. And when did everyone become a fire expert to what the procedures are when arriving at a scene. Its not as simple as " HOLY CRAP FIRE Grab the hose and spray thousands of gallons of water (that needs to be pressurized mind you) and run into a house that was going to burn down regardless. What did you guys expect the outcome of this fire to be? The house was going to burn down period look at the size of the inferno for crying out loud. I am surprised there is still structure remaining and the neighbor's siding is not a pool of plastic on the ground. It is ALWAYS easier to criticize that do something about it. And why does 25 minutes keep being thrown around. there are OFFICIAL documents stating that it took 11 minutes for the first engine to arrive. Unless that has been some how falsified. I do not see the ongoing point of this discussion. Patch you need to moderate your comments better. Although it brings you traffic 90% of this rambling is bs. be the change you wish to see.
co2 August 18, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Here are a few realities for you: #1. There once was a fire station, just across the railroad tracks in Lawrence Square Village, barely 3 minutes away from this fire. It was staffed by a paid driver during the day, with the intent that volunteers would respond to help. It closed years ago because no one was volunteering to staff it from the neighnorhood. This engine would have at least slowed the fire down before re-enforcements arrived. #2. My educated guess is that all of you who plan to complain to the Township about the response time of the fire departments are the same ones who are FREAKED OUT when Lawrence Township does their budget review. And the ones SCREAMING about less government and fiscal responsibility. I am sure if you all pitched in, the township would put a staffed fire engine in the Training Center down the street from you. Would you all write a check, please? #3. Firefighters are NOT Superman. The equipment takes time to drive to the scene, deploy, set up, and operate. Further, if you really want to get a feel for the process, I know these guys and I know that if you went over to the fire station (in a civil manner), they would be glad to demonstrate what it takes to set up to fight a fire.
Smokey August 19, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Evidently, laying the hose line is not the issue. The issue phil is training time for the volunteers. The volunteers @ LTFD need more time to connecting the hose line from the hydrant to the pumper truck, that could have feed the company at the scene water sooner and not later. phil you seem to be a know it all, play the tapes back and count if you can the number of time the command demanded the water from the pumper truck.
Smokey August 19, 2012 at 12:43 AM
phil, personal attacks directed at me are expected; from you. But do not insult the courageous special needs people in this forum.
Smokey August 19, 2012 at 12:45 AM
chris, knowing my name would make a difference how?


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