Topics of the Town: PHS Fire Suspicious?

15 January 1976

Topics of the Town • Continued torn Page 5


Police Think So. Borough police are labeling a closet fire at Princeton High School over in the weekend as “suspicious”, although they admit at this point they don’t know what started it.

The fire, first discovered a when an alarm flashed at police headquarters at 3:46 Saturday morning, was confined to a basement walk-in closet underneath the school auditorium. Ten feet long and three feet wide, the closet was used to store costumes, scenery and props a used for theatrical productions.

The contents were destroyed together with the entire backwall of the closet and one sidewall. The closet roof was burned away and the heat melted an aluminum coffee pot.

Capt. Theodore Lewis reported that the fire was confined to the closet because of an overhead concrete floor and by the sprinkling system which was operating.

Capt. Lewis said police are calling the fire suspicious because there were no electrical outlets or wiring in the closet and no evidence of spontaneous combustion. He said that the fire apparently started above the floor in the clothing.

Initially, police and firemen had difficulty in locating the blaze. Ptl. John Holcombe, PtI. William Hunter, PtI. John Reppy and Sgt. Thomas Procaccino responded. They heard an audible alarm and observed a visual red light alarm flashing on the building. They checked the entire outside area, found nothing, and immediately called William Karch, superintendent of grounds and buildings for the high school and Princeton Fire Chief.

Inside, firemen discovered the boiler room full of smoke but no fire. A piece of equipment from Hook and Ladder was requested at 4:15. Another truck was requested at 4:38.

Firemen also found the auditorium filled with smoke. Some wearing air packs went inside and discovered the area underneath the stage in flames.

There was some smoke damage and almost two feet of water filled the basement. Chief Karch explained that once the sprinkler system operates “it just goes and goes” until it is turned off manually.

He agreed with the police assessment of the start of the fire. “There’s nothing I can put my finger on,” he replied when asked about the possible cause. The fire pretty much consumed the area. I’m kind of baffled by it.”

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