23 September 1981
FIRE GUTS TOWNHOUSE
In Princeton Community Village. A fire Thursday night gutted a three-bedroom townhouse at 42 Tupelo Row in Princeton Community Village — the first major fire at the 239-unit middle-income housing project since it was built in 1975. No one was injured.
All three Princeton fire companies responded to a 9:58 general alarm and fought the blaze for some 20 minutes before bringing it under control. “Our primary goal was to try to keep the fire from spreading to adjoining apartments,” said Princeton Fire Chief Ralph Hulit Jr.
Chief Hulit said that the contents of the apartment of Elinor Little were “totally destroyed” and that there was some structural damage.
Units on either side sustained minor water damage, he said.
After an investigation, Chief Hulit and Mercer County Fire Marshall George F. Lenhardt attributed the origin of the fire to a living room television set “It appears that an older television set had an “instant on” feature that could have malfunctioned or overheated,” Chief Hulit said.
Mrs. Little, a registered nurse whose two children are away at college, told police that she had been asleep when she was awakened by the smell of smoke. She discovered the hallway was choked with smoke, grabbed some clothes, and ran outside to call for aid.
Residents in adjoining units were evacuated until the estimated 70 firemen at the scene brought the fire under control. Police said that the apartment was “engulfed in flames” when firemen arrived.
There were no fire walls between the burned out apartment and adjoining ones, Chief Hulit said. There are fire walls between every four units in the housing project,’he explained, but since this particular unit had only four apartments the only “walls” consisted of 5/8-inch plasterboard. It was the fire department’s skill that kept the fire from spreading, commented an observer.
A PCV spokesman said that another townhouse would be located for Mrs. Little, who has lived at PCV for five years. Neighbors, meanwhile, have begun to collect clothing and furniture to replace her burned possessions. See box, this page.
BURNED OUT: The rear of Mrs. Elinor Little’s Princeton Community Village duplex, after the apartment was ravaged by fire Thursday night. The view shows the doors leading to the private patio. Apartments on either side were not damaged by fire, but did sustain damage from smoke and water.