Blaze destroys Princeton home

August 13, 1993

Blaze destroys Princeton home

Torch work blamed for smoldering fire

By Bryan T. Morytko and Laurie Lynn Strasser

A fire that apparently was touched off by a soldering torch gutted a home on Harris Road in Princeton Township Thursday afternoon.

“Everything we own is in that house,” said Lena Esposito, who has resided at 9 Harris Road with her husband, Vincent, for 47 years.

Her husband was using a small, hand-held propane torch to repair a water spigot around 2 p.m. Soon after, he noticed smoke coming from the siding of the two-story wood-frame house near the spigot, said Patrolman James Strong.

After extinguishing it, Mr. Esposito went back into his house without calling the fire department. Nearly three hours later, he and his wife discovered that the fire had been smoldering in the wall of the house and had ignited the roof of their home.

Mr. Espotsito, his hands and trousers black with soot, said he was unaware of the flames until he left the basement where he was working to retrieve a forgotten pair of pliers.

“I went outside and somebody hollered, ‘Need some help?’ I said ‘What for?’ They said, ‘Your house is on fire!'” said Mr. Esposito, a Palmer…


… Square parking lot attendant who formerly owned a Witherspoon Street service station.

His wife was in the den downstairs, clearing away his lunch dishes, when she smelled smoke.

“I went outside, but didn’t look up. Then we heard people saying, `Get out, get out!’ ” she said. “When we looked up there was smoke coming out everywhere —black, heavy smoke.”

She said her husband went back inside to call the fire department, and she screamed for him to come back out. He called 911 at 4:46 p.m.

“After the fire department came, everything started to collapse,” she said. “There were flames coming from the roof ”

“We didn’t even go in and get anything out because it just wasn’t worth it,” said Mrs. Esposito, adding that she was glad no one was injured, not even Alf, their German shepherd.

The second floor of the house was gutted in the blaze, while the ground floor and basement areas received heavy water damage, said Fire Chief Raymond Bianco.

The Espositos joined more than 50 people who crowded the smoke-filled street to watch as firefighters fought to save the house and prevent the fire from spreading to other homes, some of which were located just 25 feet away.

“People I don’t even know came over and offered me some help if I needed it,” Mrs. Esposito said. Several family members also were on hand to console them.

Police and Princeton firefighters were on the scene within minutes, said Patrolman Strong. Reinforcements soon arrived from three other fire departments — Princeton Junction, Kingston and Lawrenceville. More than 35 firefighters brought the blaze under control within an hour.

With offices across Harris Road from the burning house, the Medical Center at Princeton was unaffected by the fire, hospital spokeswoman Jane Kerney said.

The hospital was forced to shut off its external air handling system to prevent smoke from being sucked into the building, she said.

No smoke entered the patient treatment areas, but some did enter the main entrance area through the hospital’s automatic doors, she said.

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