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DECEMBER 21, 2005


1759 Fourth Street,
Ewing Township

During the evening of Wednesday, December 21, 2005, members of Lawrence Road Fire Co. responded into Ewing Township to help battle a raging house fire on Fourth Street.

During the blaze, firefighters were ordered to back away from the building because live ammunition was exploding inside the burning home.

The night actually started at 10:36 p.m. when all three Lawrence Township fire companies were dispatched for a reported odor of smoke inside the Tandem Health Care nursing home at 112 Franklin Corner Road.

Among the units that responded to the nursing home was Engine 22, which was commanded by Ff. Joseph Dlabik Jr., driven by Ff. Charles Commini Sr., and crewed by Ff. Ryan Dlabik, Ff. Evan Kutzin and Ff. R.J. Laird.

Ultimately, the odor of smoke proved to be unfounded. But while firefighters were still checking the building, Mercer County Central Communications Center transmitted Box 31-10 at 10:58 p.m. for a possible house fire in the area of Fourth Street and Spruce Street in Ewing Township.

Dispatched as part of the initial assignment were Prospect Heights Fire Co. (Station 31), Engine 32 from Pennington Road Fire Co., and Ladder Tower 33 from West Trenton Fire Co.

At 11 p.m., following the receipt of multiple calls reporting a working fire, Mercer County Central retoned all Ewing fire companies and dispatched an engine from Lawrence Road Fire Co. as the rapid intervention team.

An extra engine from Slackwood Fire Co. was also added to the box due to the numerous calls.

At 11:01 p.m. Assistant Chief 33 arrived on scene and reported that the front of the two-story dwelling at 1759 Fourth Street was fully-involved with fire.

Engine 22's crew, knowing that several Station 22 members were out of town at that time doing Christmas shopping, took in the RIT assignment at 11:01 p.m., responding into Ewing after being released from the Tandem Health Care scene.

Engine 32 responded at 11:02 p.m., followed by Squirt 31 at 11:03 p.m., Engine 21 at 11:03 p.m., Rescue 32 at 11:04 p.m., Ladder Tower 33 at 11:06 p.m., and Ladder Tower 31 at 11:06 p.m.

Meanwhile, Lawrence Road Chief Wayne Hannon responded in Car 22 at 11:05 p.m.

Because of heavy radio traffic, additional Station 22 members who responded to the firehouse never heard Engine 22 respond into Ewing.

Thus, at 11:07 p.m., Rescue 22 also responded, with Ff. Ed Budzinski in command, Ff. Joseph Dlabik Sr. driving, and a crew that included Ff. Steven Adzima, Ff. Chris Dlabik, Ff. Charles Commini Jr., Ff. Martin Burch, and Ff. Steven Hodgdon.

Engine 31-1 responded at 11:09 p.m., followed by Engine 33-1 at 11:10 p.m., and Telesquirt 32 at 11:11 p.m. Light Plant 31's response time was not logged.

Squirt 31 arrived on the scene about 11:04 p.m. and took a posaition at the front of the building. Engine 32 arrived next at 11:05 p.m. and laid a supply line to a hydrant at the corner of Fourth Street and Spruce Street.

Engine 22, which arrived at 11:06 p.m., managed to take a position behind Squirt 31.

Both Ladder Tower 31, which arrived at 11:07 p.m., and Engine 31-1, whose arrival time was not logged, accessed the scene from Columbia Avenue and staged near the fire building.

All other apparatus staged on Spruce Street.

Engine 21 arrived at 11:09 p.m., followed by Ladder Tower 33 at 11:10 p.m., Rescue 22 at 11:11 p.m., and Telesquirt 32 at 11:14 p.m. Arrival times for Rescue 32, Engine 33-1, and Light Plant 31 were not logged due to heavy radio traffic.

Multiple hoselines were placed in service as firefighters tried to contain the blaze and prevent it from spreading to the Side D exposure building (a two-story dwelling).

At 11:13 p.m. Command 31 ordered all firefighters to back away from the fire building because live ammunition could be heard exploding amid the flames.

After the bullets had all exploded, firefighters moved back in and resumed their fight. Because of the heavy fire conditions, live ammunition and other hazards, all initial firefighting operations were performed from the exterior.

While Rescue 22's crew was ordered to stand by as the RIT, Engine 22's crew was put to work, first manning a hoseline on Side D and then setting up Engine 22's portable deck gun on the front lawn of the exposure building to battle the flames on Side D of the fire building. Engine 22 was supplied via a 3-inch line from Squirt 31.

At one point, Ff. Ryan Dlabik climbed a ground ladder and briefly operated a hoseline from the ladder to knock down the heavy fire in the second floor.

Later, Lawrence Road firefighters helped check the SIde D exposure building for fire extension. None was found.

The blaze, which destroyed the house and killed a pet dog trapped inside, was declared under control at 11:49 p.m.

Police later said the residents, a 43-year-old woman and her 13-year-old daughter, had been asleep when the fire broke out but escaped after a next-door neighbor knocked on their windows to alert them of the blaze.

Police said the residents' two pets actually got out of the house as well but one of the animals, the 4-year old female Shepherd mix that was later found dead, went back inside for an unknown reason.

At 12:09 a.m. Rescue 22 was released from the scene and was back in quarters by 12:13 a.m.

Engine 22, meanwhile, was released at 12:38 a.m. and was back at Station 22 by 12:43 a.m. Ewing firefighters remained on the scene until after 1:40 a.m.

All photos copyright (c) 2005 by Michael Ratcliffe.

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