9 need new housing after fire guts building

Princeton Packet
6 August 1983

9 need new housing after fire guts building

Martha T. Moore
Staff Writer

A fire that broke out at 3:20 a m. Friday gutted one apartment in a Nassau Street apartment building and damaged four others, forcing nine people to relocate after a night spent standing on the street

The fire, caused by a short in electrical wiring, started in the basement of the large white apartment house at 291-293 Nassau St., owned by William J. Hurley. Contained by aluminum siding, the flames raced up the wooden walls and across the beams of the back section of the house. Princeton Fire Chief William Rodweller said

A wire that had been “crimped’’ when it was stapled to a beam shorted out. blew the fuses in the building and started the fire, said Patrolman William Hunter, borough anon investigator A stopped electric clock in one of the apartments pinpointed the time of the short at 3:20 a.m., he added

The fire was entirely mechanical in origin. Patrolman Hunter said. Although both he and the Mercer County fire marshal investigated the scene, “no arson (was) involved.” he said.

A first-floor apartment was destroyed by flames, while another suffered severe smoke and water damage. Two second-floor apartments
were slightly damaged by smoke and water, said George Mertz, assistant executive director of the Princeton Red Cross said. A third-floor apartment received little smoke damage but firefighters cut a hole in the roof through which water poured in, he added.

Some tenants of the nine apartments in the building were awakened by the smoke that crept into their apartments, while others were roused by the shouts of people on the street, said Patrolman Hunter.

None of the tenants was hurt in the fire, but one fireman received a mild shock when he hit a wire with an axe while chopping through a wall. Mr Men said A borough policeman was treated for chest pains at Princeton Medical Center and released, he added

Firefighters from all three of Princeton’s volunteer fire companies, as well as volunteers from Lawrence Township, arrived at 3:30 a.m. The fire was “under control probably within an hour.” Chief Rodweller said. Although the building’s aluminum siding kept flames inside the building, “little hot spots kept breaking out” and the fire “kept jumping around.” he added.
The heat from the fire was so intense that copper pipes became disjointed when then soldering melted, borough police reported
The fire companies stayed at the site until 11 a.m., Chief Rodweller said.

Signal 22, a volunteer group that offers coffee and refreshments to firefighters, was also at the scene .“When the fire is before breakfast,” the chief said, “a good cup of coffee really hits the spot.”

Red Cross volunteers arrived at 6:15 a.m., Mr Mertz said. The tenants of four apartments, primarily young couples, are slaying with relatives and friends, he added. One woman chose to stay in her apartment, he said.

Clay Graybeal and his wife were awakened by the shouts of tenants from the back of the house, who ran outside when the power went off. Seeing smoke in their apartment, the couple called the fire department and went outside. Their apartment suffered minor smoke damage. Mr. Graybeal said.

Michael Fabian, whose apartment in the front of the house also suffered some smoke damage, was awakened by his roommate when the fire began. Tenant Bill Fleming smelled smoke from his apartment and was about to go outside when Chief Rodweller banged on his door and told him to leave the building

“I didn’t have time to be scared,” Mr. Fabian said, adding the fire companies “did a really good job.” Although he was in the process of moving out of the building when the fire struck Friday, he still has “a lot of washing off to do.”

The apartment building had been for sale for several years. Mr. Hurley said, and he had been ready to close on a sale before the fire. Now, however, “that’s all out the window.” said Mr Hurley, who heard the alarm from his home on Maple Street and instinctively hurried over to the scene.

“I don’t know why, but something ’ said, ‘You’d better check'”

He could not give an estimate on the amount of damage.

“Hopefully we’ll rebuild it, and it’ll be so nice we won’t want to sell it.”

While major damage is concentrated in one area, he noted, the smoke-damaged apartments “look like me inside of a coal mine.”

Mr. Hurley praised the Red Cross for doing “a wonderful job.” and added ruefully, “the worst is over now — now it’s just a lot of work.”

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