Sparks from Fireplace Spread to Roof Severely Damaging Province Line Home

Town Topics
13 February 1980

Sparks from Fireplace Spread to Roof Severely Damaging Province Line Home

Sparks from Fireplace Spread to Roof Severely Damaging Province Line Home
A fire that started on the roof of the Grace B. Lambert home on Province Line Road destroyed two floors of the six-bedroom, brick mansion Thursday before it was brought under control by firemen who were hampered by low water pressure.

No one was injured in the blaze but it forced Mrs. Lambert and her guest, the Rev. John Crocker Jr., rector of Trinity Church, to flee for safety. Mrs. Lambert, 80, is the widow of Gerard Lambert, former president of the Lambert Pharmaceutical Company, who died in 1967.

A general alarm was sounded at 3:55 p.m. Fire Chief William B. Shields reported that embers from a fire in the library hearth had ignited the home’s dry cedar roof shingles. Firemen and police first on the scene reported the entire roof engulfed in flames.

Lost in the blaze were valuable heirloom antiques, and other furnishings and family documents. Firemen, police and employees of Mrs. Lambert repeatedly ran into first floor rooms while flames raged above, carrying out as many valuables as possible before it was necessary to stop for safety’s

Damage to the home was extensive. The entire attic floor was burned away. Assistant Fire Chief Ralph Hulit Jr. estimated 80 percent of the second floor was damaged and the first floor suffered extensively from smoke and water.
A hydrant on the grounds of the estate was unable to handle the magnitude of the fire, Chief Shields said. Firemen chopped through the ice of a nearby pool to draw water and at 4:07 – 12 minutes after the alarm – the water company was notified to boost pressure.

Firemen had to run long hose lines to the nearest hydrant at Rosedale and Province Line four-fifths of a mile from the home. A long, collapsed hose running the length of the curving drive was mute testimony to the low pressure.
Water pressure was cut at the ETS and Squibb facilities to provide greater pressure. At 4:20, firemen requested a water tanker from the Montgomery Township Fire Department; at 5:01, Pennington was called to send its water tanker.

In all, more than 100 firemen from four companies fought the blaze. Although it was brought under control in about 90 minutes, firemen were kept busy when the roof collapsed and joists fell down to the second and first floors, starting new fires. Firemen, hovering above the burning roof in a snorkel unit, were able to keep the flames from spreading to the servants’ wing of the L-shaped home, built in the 1940s, but not from reaching the library and foyer.

Some fire personnel remained at the scene until 3 a.m. There has been no estimate of the damage to the house and its furnishings, pending insurance appraisals.

The fire was discovered by an employee of Mrs. Lambert’s who was walking her retrievers on the grounds of the 100-acre estate. When he saw the roof burning, he ran back to spread the alarm.

Mr. Lambert was a noted sailor and had competed

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Province Line Rd. Fire
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in the America Cup Races. Some of his sailing trophies were believed damaged or lost in the fire.

Mrs. Lambert is now living with friends. For a letter of appreciation from her for the assistance she received during and after the fire, see Page 15.

-Preston Eckmeder


THE BATTLE TO SAVE LAMBERT HOUSE: Firemen in a snorkel unit pour water on flames in a futile effort to save the roof of the Lambert home on Province Line Road. Story at left.

Province Line Road

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