10 January 1980
Princeton blaze destroys store:
damages 5 others
By BERNARD C. CULLEN
and DON SAPATKIN
A spectacular general alarm blaze destroyed one business and damaged at least five others on Princeton Borough’s Nassau Street last night.
The blaze, which started about 8 p.m., sent about 50 diners in the popular Hudibras Restaurant scurrying from their tables to safety.
More than 140 firefighters from nine suburban companies and Trenton fought the blaze. The fire started in the Value Fair convenience store at 136 Nassau St., Princeton’s Assistant Fire Chief Ralph Hulit Jr. said today.
The fire also damaged the hallway ceiling of Hudibras, but the dining area itself, in the rear of the building, received only smoke and water damage, Hulit said.
Mercer County Fire Marshall John Lee and two arson investigators from Princeton Borough were at the scene today to try to determine the cause of the blaze. Borough Police Chief Michael Carnevale stressed that the fire has not been labeled suspicious.
AROUND MIDNIGHT, Value Fair’s roof collapsed but no one was hurt.
Flames spread quickly to the restaurant next door, and smoke damaged Allen’s Children Center, a clothing store two doors away. Hulit’s shoe store, and the Nassau Hobby and Craft Shop. The fire was controlled around 11 p.m.
Only two injuries were reported, to a Princeton rescue squad worker and a firefighter.
Michael Carnevale, 22, son of the borough’s police chief and a member of the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad, suffered a dislocated shoulder. He was treated at Princeton Medical Center.
And Princeton Firefighter Michael Perna was treated at the hospital for a cut over his right eye. Both men were released.
(Continued on Page A4, Col. 1)
Fire guts Princeton store, damages five
THE BLAZE came just a week before borough officials were to have inspected the Value Fair store to determine whether fire violations cited last year had been cleared up.
Hulit said today the store had been cited for overstocking in the basement.
More than 1,000 persons crowded the snow-covered knoll in front of Princeton’s Firestone Library. They watched firemen fight to knock down the wall of flames which rose from the top of the two-story brick building housing the restaurant and Value Fair store.
Many of the onlookers became engulfed in a thick cloud of smoke that drifted down much of the five-block stretch of Nassau Street that was cordoned off.
Snorkel units from Princeton Junction, Lawrence Township and Princeton towered over the burning buildings and showered them with icy water.
On the street below, firefighters slipped and slid on the ice which formed in the 26-degree temperatures.
FOR A WHILE, it seemed the fire might spread to businesses on both sides of the burning building. Firemen doused them with water to contain the blaze.
“It’s trying to come through the walls, but we’re pouring water on them and trying to stop it,” Princeton Junction Fire Chief Richard Rodefeld said about 9:30 p.m.
Rodefeld said 20 Princeton Junction firefighters covered crates of clothing and supplies in Allen’s basement to protect them from the thousands of gallons of water poured into the building.
William Boozer, president of the Princeton Savings and Loan Association. which is next to Allen’s, said he feared the firewalls separating the buildings might not stop the flames.
He said the floors and many of the beams in the buildings are made of wood and would burn quickly.
JOSEPH PARVEN. owner of the Value Fair store, declined to comment on the fire. One of the stockboys, 18-year-old Don Rickert, said he discovered the fire only minutes after he and manager Hal Duckin closed the store at 7:57 p.m.
“I turned off all of the switches and lights, and nothing was wrong when I left.” he recalled last night as he watched the fire.
Rickert said he walked Duckin to Washington Road and when he turned back, noticed what appeared to be fog near the building. He said as he approached he smelled the burning, but thought it was a fire in someone’s apartment until he reached the store and saw the flames inside.
Hodge Woolwine. 45, the owner of Nassau Hobby and Crafts, said he was home when he received a call from police telling him there was a fire near his store.
“I was 4 miles away on Route 1, and I could see the glow in the sky.” he said, as he tried to enter the store and was forced back by thick smoke. “They said to be ready just in case, and I was scared.”
One bystander, 22-year-old Michael Hode of Palmer Square in Princeton, said flames were shooting from the front of Value Fair and smoke was coming from the restaurant when he arrived on the scene.
A firetruck snorkel pokes into the sky last night pouring torrents of water onto the Hudibras restaurant on Nassau Street in Princeton Borough. Related fire scene photo on Page B1.
(Staff photo by Michael Plunkett)