A fierce and fast-moving fire destroyed a Lawrenceville (NJ) townhouse, sent three residents to the hospital for smoke inhalation and put volunteer firefighters in danger, reports Lawrenceville Patch.
Several volunteer firefighters who were trying to advance a hoseline through the burning home narrowly escaped being seriously injured or killed when the second floor collapsed and an oven and other kitchen appliances fell to the floor below, just feet from where they were working, according to fire officials at the scene.
Volunteer firefighters, emergency medical personnel and other support services from Ewing, Hopewell Borough, Princeton, Trenton and East Windsor responded to the fire scene to help out.
Lawrenceville Fire Chief Gary Wasko arrived at 12:04 a.m., quickly followed by other fire officers. The first fire engine, Lawrenceville’s Telesquirt 23, reached the scene at 12:07 a.m., followed 30 seconds later by Lawrence Road’s Engine 22, according to the official incident dispatch log from Mercer County Central Communications. Additional fire units then followed.
Lawrence Road Fire Chief Shaun Dlabik and Lawrenceville Assistant Chief Dave Burns were on the front porch, in the process of donning the masks for their breathing apparatus prior to entering the smoke-filled home, when the screen door suddenly blew open and a wall of flames knocked the two veteran firefighters off their feet and down a half-dozen steps. Fortunately, they were not hurt.
At about the same time, officials said, the sliding glass doors at the rear of the house exploded and flames began to shoot out like a blowtorch.
Spraying water from a hoseline, a team of firefighters then pushed back the flames at the front porch and entered the house. Due to the home’s split-level layout, firefighters could either go up or down, officials said. With flames shooting up toward them from the lower level, they headed down, extinguishing fire as they went.
But the heat was so intense, officials said, that the hose team was not able to get very far down the stairs. They were still trying to move forward when, just before 12:20 a.m. according to the dispatch log, the beams supporting the second-floor kitchen burned away and the stove and other appliances crashed down to the exact area the hose team was headed toward.
At that point, with conditions inside the home unsafe and rapidly deteriorating, Wasko ordered all firefighters to evacuate the interior of the house and instead battle the flames from the exterior using multiple hoselines from the ground and from ladders.
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