Fire guts attic in township

Princeton Packet
22 May, 1992 (~estimated)

Fire guts attic in township

Officials probe status of hydrant

By Laurie Lynn Strasser
Staff Writer

Police Thursday were still trying to determine the origin of a fire that gutted the attic of a two-story house at 72 Henry Ave. in Princeton Township Tuesday afternoon.

Also under investigation is whether a malfunctioning hydrant at the comer of Harris Road interfered with the firefighters’ ability to put out the blaze.

Five construction workers were in the midst of building an addition to the white wood-frame structure when an electrician smelled smoke, police said.

The homeowner, 39-year-old Simone Stalk, was outside with her daughter Madeline at the time, while her son Nicholas was not at home, and her husband was out of town, the laborers said.

Employed by Oak Ridge Builders, based in Voorhees, they telephoned police to report the blaze at 12:16 p.m. after an electrician smelled smoke.

Officials have not yet determined bow the fire started.

“Right now who knows?” said Princeton Fire Chief Joseph Meyers on Thursday. “I can’t even begin to say what could have started h. We know it’s not electrical.”

Asked whether the builders might have ignited it themselves, he said, “They told us they hadn’t been up there (on the roof) for a while.”

One of the workers, who declined to give his name, blamed a faulty hydrant for the extent of damage. “The new roof we put on is gone now. It has to be ripped up and relaid again,” he said. “How come the fire hydrant across the street didn’t work?”

Pointing out the 2-foot-square hole where the flames first penetrated the roof, he said,

“When the fire company arrived it was this big. It took 10 minutes to get water to start fighting it by the thine it took them to run a hose all the way down the sheet. That’s probably why the roof is so messed

Chief Meyers responded. “The hydrant was leaking, not to the point that it affected the extinguishment of the fire. We had plenty of water. Our standard operating procedure is to have two different sources.”

“It was free-burning through the roof,” he added. “It was a cedar shake roof so that didn’t help matters either. They were standing there with a garden hose trying to put this thing out and they had no idea what they were trying to put out. It was doing absolutely no good whatsoever. It had been burning for a while without a doubt before it broke through. It rode up the taken and followed the roof line.”

“It is under investigation whether it had any effect on the water flow going through there, but it’s highly unlikely,” said Donna Yukob, spokeswoman for Elizabethtown Water Co. “When it was last checked I believe will be part of our investigation.”

“We do have responsibility to own and maintain all of the hydrants in our system,” she added. “We  also have a person dedicated to checking hydrants. He checks as many as he can.” All hydrants are flushed each spring, so ‘ if that one were leaking a year ago, it would have been detected, she said.

A crew from Elizabethtown replaced the hydrant Thursday.

“They’re fixing it now, but it’s a little late to close the barn door after the home has run away,” the work-man said.

Firefighters controlled the blaze by I p.m. Though the builders gauged the cost of damages at about $25,000 to 530,000, no insurance estimate is available yet.

“It was an excellent stop on the . fire department’s part.” the chief said “It could have been a lot worse. It was contained to the attic and the roof. The fire didn’t affect any of the living quarters except that they stink and we covered everything up with, tarp” an didn’t get soaked and ruined.”

Staff photo by Jodi Levinson

Firefighters battle attic blaze at 72 Henry Ave. in Princeton Township on Tuesday

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