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JULY 19, 2005


Mercer Engine Co. #3 (Station 63),
Witherspoon Street, Princeton Township

On Tuesday, July 19, 2005, a crew of Lawrence Road Fire Co. volunteers responded with Engine 22 into Princeton Township to standby at Station 63 (Mercer Engine Co. #3) while the Princeton Fire Department and other mutual aid units battled a two-alarm blaze involving two homes near Nassau Street in Princeton Borough.

It was 4:10 p.m. when a firefighter at Princeton Engine Co. #1 (Station 61) on Chestnut Street spotted smoke issuing from a house on Moran Avenue, located just one block away.

He radioed in the alarm to Mercer County Central Communications Center, which in turn dispatched all three Princeton Fire Department companies -- Station 61, Station 62 (Princeton Hook & Ladder Co.) and Station 63.

When the first firefighters arrived, they discovered heavy smoke issuing from the top of the three-story duplex occupied by 29 and 31 Moran Avenue.

With confirmation of a working fire, a Princeton Fire Department general alarm (a request for all available volunteers to respond) was transmitted.

A mutual aid rapid intervention team was also dispatched to the fireground, while Engine 44 from West Windsor Township's Princeton Junction Fire Co. (Station 44) and Ladder Tower 23 from Lawrence Township's Lawrencville Fire Co. (Station 23) were dispatched to relocate to Station 63 to cover the Princeton area.

However, due to heavy fire conditions being reported inside the duplex and the afternoon's excessive heat and humidity (the heat index was about 100 degrees), a full second alarm was requested.

Engine 44 and Ladder Tower 23 were immediately redirected to the fireground.

Other mutual aid that responded to the scene came from West Windsor Township's West Windsor Fire Co. (Station 43); Rocky Hill Borough's Rocky Hill Fire Co. (Somerset County Station 53); Montgomery Township's Montgomery Fire Co. #2 (Somerset County Station 46); South Brunswick Township's Kingston Fire Co. (Middlesex County Station 24); and Plainsboro Township's Plainsboro Fire Co. (Middlesex County Station 49).

Firefighters attempted an interior attack, but deteriorating conditions and the partial collapse of a stairwell forced the incident commander, Princeton Fire Chief Pat McAvenia, to order all personnel to evacuate the structure at 4:42 p.m. Flames broke through the roof and shot into the afternoon sky as the air horns sounded the evacuation signal.

Master streams from the bucket of Ladder Tower 62 and from the tip of Engine 63-1's 50-foot snozzel boom, as well as a deck gun from Engine 63-1, were put to work to knock down the heavy fire.

The blaze was officially declared under control at 5:17 p.m., but firefighters remained on scene for several more hours dousing hot spots and overhauling the fire building.

The roof of the duplex and the top floors of both homes were destoryed, while the other floors sustained extensive fire, smoke and water damage. (Police later said the fire had been accidentally started by roofing contractors working on one side of the duplex.)

Emergency medical personnel from the Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad (Squad 168) set up a rehab tent where firefighters were checked and given water and other refreshments. Four firefighters who suffered minor injuries were treated on scene.

Apparatus on the fireground included: Engine 61-1, Rescue 61, Ladder Tower 62, Engine 62-1, Engine 62-5, Engine 63-1, Engine 63-2, Engine 44, Special Services 43, Ladder Tower 23, Engine 53-1, Snorkel 46-126, Engine 24-4, and a Plainsboro unit, along with Ambulance 168-1, Rescue 168, and Special Services 168.

(Helping to fight the fire were Lawrence Road Capt. Shaun Dlabik, who is also a volunteer firefighter with Princeton Engine Co. #1, and Lawrence Road Ff. Ryan Dlabik, who rode to the scene as part of Engine 44's crew.)

Following the transmission of the second alarm, Mercer County Central dispatched additional mutual aid units to provide coverage for Princeton.

At 4:27 p.m., Lawrence Road's Engine 22 was dispatched to relocate to Station 63.

Engine 22 responded at 4:31 p.m. with Lt. Edward Kitchen in command, Ff. Martin Burch driving, and a crew that included Ff. Ed Budzinski, Ff. Evan Kutzn, Ff. Steven Hodgdon, and Ff. Michael Trimble.

Engine 22 arrived at the Mercer Engine Co. #3 firehouse at 4:44 p.m.

Also dispatched to stand by at Station 63 was Engine 52 from Hopewell Borough Fire Co. and Princeton Junction's Ladder Tower 44.
At 5:18 p.m. Engine 52 was released and returned to Hopewell Borough.

Engine 22 and Ladder Tower 44 remained at Station 63 until 6:45 p.m. During the standby, no emergency calls were received.

Engine 22 was back in quarters at the Lawrence Road firehouse by 7:13 p.m.

While Engine 22's crew was standing by in Princeton, other Lawrence Road firefighters manning Rescue 22 responded with Lawreceville Fire Co. to a working box truck fire at the intersection of Lawrence Road and Franklin Corner Road.

Then, little more than 10 minutes after Engine 22 arrived home at Station 22, all three Lawrence Township fire companies were dispatched to the Delaware & Raritan Canal for a vehicle submerged in the water.

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