Inn cited for fire code violation

June 22, 1993

The Princeton Packet

Inn cited for fire code violation

Faces fine if air intakes are not cleaned out by June

By Laurie Lynn Strasser

Staff Writer

The Nassau Inn was cited Monday for violating the state fire code after smoke drove 150 Anglican musicians outside in their business suits Thursday at 8 p.m.

The fire began in a pile of dry leaves that had accumulated in an underground air intake duct beneath a sidewalk grate by the hotel’s canopy entrance on Palmer Square East, borough police Capt. Peter Hanley said.

“Nobody had any knowledge that there were any leaves ac-cumulated down there,” said Mark Flaherty, general manager of the Nassau Inn. He described the incident as “a minor inconvenience.”

Smoke traveled through the hotel’s ventilation system and poured into the main banquet room, said Deputy Fire Chief Benjamin “Roz” Warren. On the last night of a three-day conference, musicians from nationwide were evacuated for approximately 20 minutes while the room was cleared of smoke, Mr. Flaherty said.

They had been milling in the lobby during cocktail hour when “heavy smoke” choked the Prince William Room where they were to eat dinner, Mr. Warren said.

A local merchant who found the burning leaves poured water on the flames, extinguishing them by the time police and two fire trucks arrived, he said.

The fire was accidental, possibly caused by a discarded cigarette, he said, noting, “There was no foul play.”

The banquet room, which has the capacity to hold about 300 people, was not damaged, Mr. Warren said. Using the hotel’s exhaust system and fans, firefighters cleared the room of smoke in 15 minutes, he said.

After checking the site Monday, borough Fire Official… Drake commanded the inn to clean out the hotel’s four air intakes. If they are not clear by June 29, the inn could face a maximum fine of $500 per day until they are, he said.

“They were issued a notice of violation under the New Jersey uniform fire code that they were to keep the air intakes free of debris as a general precaution against fire,” he said. “They weren’t cleaning the leaves out at all.”

Mr. Drake praised the hotel staff for having taken “appropriate action” in response to the smoke condition.

Rooms and corridors must have smoke detectors, but the law only requires detectors for new heating and cooling systems, he said. The air intake where the fire started was installed in the 1950s and meets code, he said.

In fact, he said, “We don’t want a smoke detector on the intake because every time a car goes by, we’d be in there for false alarms.”

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