3 December, 1986
Basement fire hits Allen’s
By Mariode Snyder
A doll located too close to a heater is the suspected cause of a fire in the basement of Allen’s Children’s Center store on Nassau Street Monday morning, say fire officials.
Members of the Princeton Fire Department rushed to 134 Nassau St., where the fire erupted under a stairway in the store’s basement at 9:07 a.m., said Fire Chief Peter Hodge.
After the doll caught fire from the heater, the flames spread to an adjacent enclosed cabinet and up the staircase to the stores first floor” he said.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze “fairly rapidly,” in about 10 minutes, according to Chief Hodge. Ten people were evacuated, but no injuries were reported, he said.
Chief Hodge said people were permitted back inside the building about 45 minutes after the fire started, but since overhead beams in the basement were charred, firefighters remained until about 11:45 a.m. to prevent any sparks from spreading, he said. Several holes were made in the first floor to find “hot spots” in the beams, he said.
The store sustained “moderate damage” due to heavy smoke. Chief Hodge said. Structural damage to the basement the closet, and stairway were also reported, he said.
Arson is not suspected, according to fire officials.
Allen’s was closed Monday, but expected to reopen today, Tuesday.
The morning “rush hour” fire drew curious glances from many passers-by and looks of frustration upon the faces of motorists attempting to navigate a more than usually congested Nassau Street, which police closed for several minutes.
Exhaust fans blew smoke outside the children’s clothing store while firefighters investigated the cause of the blaze. Apartment dwellers who live above Allen’s talked to one another in the chilly morning air.
“The smoke was pouring out of the outlets,” said one tenant, who declined to give his name. He said that he and his roommate tried unsuccessfully to turn on the heat.
“We were wondering why it was so cold,” the man said. “Then smoke started coming up through the radiator.”
Basement Fire Erupts In Allen’s Store Monday
A fire that started at 134 Nassau Street in the basement of Allen’s Children’s Store, Monday morning caused minor structural damage filled the first floor with smoke, and forced the store to close for the day.
The cause of the fire has been blamed on a doll that fell off a shelf in the basement landed beside a furnace and ignited. The fire spread to an adjoining wall, cabinet and door frame and up the staircase.
Ten people had to be evacuated from the store and apartments above the store, but no one was injured.
Sgt. Charles Davall and Ptl. William Nathan responded to a call from clerk Liz Martini, who reported the fire shortly after the store opened at 9. Finding heavy smoke in the basement. the officers attempted to extinguish the blaze with equipment from their patrol car and from the store. “They were able to knock the fire down but were unable to completely extinguish it,” said Capt. Thomas Michaud. A general alarm was sounded at 9:07.
Members of the Princeton Fire Department arrived quickly and were able to extinguish the remaining fire in about ten minutes, according to Fire Chief Peter Hodge.
Firemen were forced to chop three holes in the floor to reach some embers that were still burning. Firemen then used exhaust fans to help eject the lingering smoke.
People were permitted back inside the building about 45 minutes after the fire started. Traffic on busy Nassau Street was detoured temporarily to allow the fire trucks to get into position, Capt. Michaud said, but it was reopened to traffic a few minutes later.
The area has been the scene of some spectacular fires in the past. Value Fair, next to Hulit’s Shots, 140 Nassau, was completely destroyed by a fire; Hulit’s Shoes has been struck by two fires, one gutting the store, and more recently, Marita’s Restaurant, 138 Nassau, was closed for almost a year as the result of a fire.