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FEBRUARY 17, 2006


10 Dorset Drive,
Ewing Township

During the afternoon of Friday, February 17, 2006, a crew of Lawrence Road Fire Co. volunteers responded mutual aid into Ewing Township to serve as the rapid intervention team at a working house fire at 10 Dorset Drive.

Investigators believe the blaze was sparked by a candle that had been sitting atop a small table in the living room of the one-story dwelling. Somehow, the candle fell over and ignited a comforter or blanket that was draped across a nearby couch.

Inside the house – which investigators said had no working smoke detectors – were a 2-year-old girl and her 64-year-old grandmother.
The grandmother, who was not feeling well, was reportedly in her bedroom lying down. As the blaze intensified, the 2-year-old ran to her napping grandmother and awoke her.

According to investigators, the grandmother then tried to drag the burning comforter into the kitchen in an apparent effort to douse it with water from the sink. But that effort only spread the flames to the kitchen and forced the woman to flee the home with the toddler.
The grandmother then used her cell phone to dial 911, but that call initially went to a state police dispatch center, which then apparently transferred it to Hamilton Township police who, in turn, then relayed it to Ewing Township police, investigators said.

By the time the grandmother’s call was received, Ewing police were already receiving phone calls about the blaze from several neighbors.
At 12:48 p.m. Mercer County Central Communications Center transmitted Box 32-10 and dispatched the Pennington Road Fire Co. (Station 32), along with Ladder Tower 31 from the Prospect Heights Fire Co., and Engine 33 from the West Trenton Fire Co.

At 12:50 p.m. a Ewing Township Emergency Medical Service (Squad 139) ambulance arrived on scene and reported there was heavy smoke showing from the front of the house.

As a result, at 12:51 p.m., Mercer County Central immediately upgraded to a full first alarm. All three Ewing Township fire companies were retoned at that time, and Lawrence Road’s Rescue 22 was dispatched for RIT duties.

Apparatus response times were as follows: Telesquirt 32 at 12:48 p.m.; Ladder Tower 31 at 12:50 p.m., Engine 33 at 12:51 p.m.; Rescue 22 at 12:52 p.m.; Rescue 32 at 12:56 p.m.; and Engine 32 at 12:56 p.m.

Rescue 22 was commanded by Capt. Michael Byrd and driven by Paid Driver Robert Santello. The crew included Capt. Edward Kitchen, Ff. Ed Budzinski, Ff. Steven Hodgdon, Ff. Ryan Dlabik, and Ff. Evan Kutzin.

The home’s living room and kitchen were engulfed in flames and the front windows were starting to shatter from the intense heat as Telesquirt 32’s crew arrived at 12:52 p.m., stretched a 1.75-inch hoseline and mounted an aggressive interior attack.

Telesquirt 32’s driver was able to secure his own water supply from a hydrant located almost directly opposite the burning home.

Engine 33 reached the scene next at 12:54 p.m., followed by Ladder Tower 31 at 12:55 p.m., Rescue 22 at 12:56 p.m., Rescue 32 at 12:58 p.m., and then Engine 32 at 12:59 p.m.

Rescue 22’s crew assembled with their tools on the front lawn and stood by as the RIT while Ewing firefighters made a quick knock down of the fire.

The blaze was officially declared under control at 1:11 p.m.

Command 32 then dissolved Rescue 22’s crew of RIT duties and ordered Lawrence Road firefighters to use their thermal imaging camera to check for fire extension and help overhaul by pulling ceilings in the living room.

Ultimately, the living room and kitchen were gutted, while the rest of the house sustained so much heat and smoke damage it was declared uninhabitable by a township building inspector.

Rescue 22 was released from the scene at 1:31 p.m. and was in quarters by 1:38 p.m.

No one was injured, but investigators – pointing to the fact that the home had no working smoke detectors – said the blaze could have been deadly if the toddler had not sought out help.

“That 2-year-old saved the day,” Pennington Road Chief Donald Young told The Trenton Times newspaper after the fire. “If she wasn't alert enough to go to grandmom and tell her something was wrong, who knows what would have happened.”

All photos copyright (c) 2006 by Michael Ratcliffe.

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