Red Lobster, 3255 Brunswick Pike
During the early-morning hours of Saturday, December 31, 2005, volunteers from all three Lawrence Township fire companies responded twice to the Red Lobster restaurant at 3255 Brunswick Pike for a small but stubborn fire.
It was 12:25 a.m. when Mercer County Central Communications Center transmitted Box 23-50 and dispatched Lawrenceville, Lawrence Road and Slackwood firefighters for a report of smoke coming from the ventilation ducts inside the restaurant.
Lawrence Road Chief Wayne Hannon in Car 22 and Engine 22 both responded at 12:26 a.m.
Engine 22 was commanded by Capt. Michael Byrd, driven by Capt. Shaun Dlabik, and crewed by Ff. Jarred Pierson, Ff. Charles Commini Jr., Ff. R.J. Laird and Ff. Steven Hodgdon.
Telesquirt 23, Rescue 22, and Snorkel 21 all responded at 12:29 a.m., followed by Ladder Tower 23 at 12:31 a.m.
Rescue 22 was commanded by Assistant Chief Chris Pangaldi, driven by Ff. Joseph Dlabik Sr., and crewed by Capt. Michael Ratcliffe, Ff. Andrew Fosina, Ff. Adam Rivera, and Ff. Ryan Dlabik.
Hannon and Engine 22 arrived on the scene at 12:33 a.m. and took a position on Side A. Engine 22's crew was met by a township police officer, who advised that the smoke condition inside appeared to be coming from the air handlers on the roof.
Engine 22's crew entered the restaurant and accessed the roof via an internal hatch. Meanwhile, Telesquirt 23 arrived at 12:34 a.m. and took a position on Side B and raised its aerial ladder to the roof.
Snorkel 21 arrived at 12:35 a.m. and reported to the rear, while Rescue 22 arrived at 12:36 a.m. and took a position on Side A where it could be ready to layout to a hydrant if necessary. Ladder Tower 23 arrived at 12:38 a.m. and assumed a position on Side A as well.
Lawrence First Aid Squad's Ambulance 129-2, which had been dispatched for a fire stand by, arrived at 12:39 a.m.
While the other crews stood by, the crews from Telesquirt 23 and Engine 22 checked the air handlers on the roof and the interior of the restaurant with thermal imaging cameras, but were unable to find any sign of a fire.
After much investigation, firefighters turned off the air handlers and concluded that the smoke may have been from a faulty motor.
At 12:58 a.m. all units with the exception of Telesquirt 23 and Engine 22 were realled.
Rescue 22 cleared the scene at 1 a.m. and was back in quarters by 1:07 a.m.
The crews from Telesquirt 23 and Engine 22, meanwhile, continued their investigation but could still find no evidence of fire in the roof air handlers or inside the restaurant.
At 1:33 a.m. Engine 22 was released from the scene and was back in quarters by 1:40 a.m.
Telesquirt 23 remained on the scene until 1:40 a.m. and advised the management of the restaurant to contact a technician to have the roof air handlers looked at immediately.
The restaurant did indeed call in a contractor to look at the air handlers.
When the contractor arrived, he cut open a panel in the side of one of the air handlers and discovered more smoke, then spotted embers burning in the duct work below.
The area where the fire was located had been totally inaccessible to the firefighters who were on the roof earlier.
The restaurant immediately called 911 again to report a fire.
This time it was 2:52 p.m. when Box 23-50 was transmitted again and all three Lawrence Township fire companies and Lawrence First Aid Squad were redispatched to the Red Lobster.
Lawrenceville Chief Dave Burns responded in Car 23 at 2:54 a.m., followed by Telesquirt 23 at 2:56 a.m., Engine 22 at 2:56 a.m., Ambulance 129-2 at 2:57 a.m., Ladder Tower 23 at 2:57 a.m. and Snorkel 21 at 2:58 a.m., and Rescue 22 at 2:59 a.m.
Engine 22 was commanded by Assistant Chief Chris Pangaldi, driven by Capt. Shaun Dlabik, and crewed by Ff. Matt Farletta, Ff. R.J. Laird, Ff. Joseph Dlabik Jr. and Ff. Chris Dlabik.
Rescue 22 was commanded by Ff. Jarred Pierson, driven by Capt. Michael Ratcliffe, and staffed by Ff. Steven Hodgdon and Ff. Adam Rivera.
Lawrence Road Chief Wayne Hannon responded in Car 22, but his response time was not logged.
Burns and Hannon both reached the scene at 3 a.m. to find light smole showing from the roof of the restaurant.
Engine 22 arrived at 3:02 a.m. and was ordered by Burns to stage in the rear of the building and wait for Telesquirt 23 to arrive and set up on Side B. Telesquirt 23 arrived less than a minute later.
Ambulance 129-2 arrived at 3:03 a.m., followed by Ladder Tower 23 and Snorkel 21 at 3:04 a.m., and Rescue 22 at 3:07 a.m.
Rescue 23, which responded at 3:09 a.m., arrived at 3:16 a.m.
While the crew from Telesquirt 23 accessed the roof via aerial ladder and met with the contractor who had found the fire.
On the recommendation of Lawrenceville Assistant Chief Ray Nagy, Burns sent Engine 22's crew into the kitchen of the restaurant with a booster line from Telesquirt 23 to hose down hot embers in the ductwork of the air handler. Crews used thermal imagers to pinpoint hot spots and check for fire extension.
At 3:19 a.m. Burns recalled Rescue 22 and Snorkel 21. Rescue 22 was back in quarters by 3:26 a.m.
At 3:27 a.m. Burns advised Mercer County Central that the fire was out and that all units could be recalled. He also noted that the township health department had been notified of the fire in the restaurant.
Engine 22 cleared the scene at 3:31 a.m. and was back at Station 22 by 3:36 a.m.
All photos copyright (c) 2005 by Michael Ratcliffe