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APRIL 20, 2006


2 Fox Run Road,
Hopewell Township

During the afternoon of Thursday, April 20, 2006, a crew of Lawrence Road Fire Co. volunteers responded mutual aid into Hopewell Township to the scene of a two-alarm house fire.

The blaze in the large, two-story house at 2 Fox Run Road, at the corner with Marshalls Corner-Woodsville Road, was apparently the result of a freak accident, according to police.

Because there had been a significant lack of rain during the preceding weeks, the mulch and shrubbery surrounding the residence was extremely dry, police said.

Police said investigators suspect that the mulch may have spontaneously combusted and the smoldering mulch was then fanned into fast-moving flames by the afternoon wind gusts and also the exhaust of a passing lawn mower operated by a landscaper who was cutting the lawn.

The landscaper spotted the fire and tried to use a garden hose to contain it, as a neighbor phoned 911, police said. But the wind and the tinder-like condition of the mulch and shrubs allowed the flames to rapidly burn up the exterior wall and spread into the homeís attic.

It was 1:38 p.m. when Hopewell Borough (Station 52) and Pennington Borough (Station 51) fire companies were dispatched, along with Hopewell Valley Emergency Services.

At 1:41 p.m. Chief 52 arrived on scene and reported he had heavy fire showing from the second floor of the residence along Side D.

As a result at 1:42 p.m. Mercer County Central Communications Center upgraded to Box 52-40ís full first alarm and dispatched Telesquirt 23 from Lawrenceville Fire Co. and tankers from Station 52, Station 51, and Station 53 (Union Fire Co. of Titusville).

Rescue 32 from Pennington Road Fire Co. of Ewing Township was dispatched at 1:45 p.m. as the rapid intervention team.

At 1:47 p.m. a second alarm was transmitted. Dispatched as part of the second alarm were Lawrence Roadís Rescue 22, Ladder Tower 33 from West Trenton Fire Co. of Ewing Township, and an engine from Montgomery Fire Co. #2 (Somerset County Station 46).

Tankers from Montgomery Fire Co. #1 (Somerset County Station 45) and Franklin Townshipís Griggstown Fire Co. (Somerset County Station 35) were also dispatched.

Apparatus response times were as follows: Rescue 51 at 1:41 p.m.; Engine 52 at 1:42 p.m.; Telesquirt 23 at 1:43 p.m.; Tanker 53 at 1:47 p.m.; Rescue 22 at 1:49 p.m.; Ladder Tower 51 at 1:49 p.m.; Tanker 51 at 1:50 p.m.; Tanker 52 at 1:50 p.m.; Ladder Tower 33 at 1:52 p.m.; Rescue 52; and Engine 51 at 1:55 p.m. Rescue 32ís response time was not logged.

Rescue 22 was commanded by Capt. Michael Ratcliffe, driven by Ff. Michael Peterson, and crewed by Capt. Edward Kitchen, Ff. Joseph Dlabik Jr., Ff. Ryan Dlabik and Ff. Sean Ryan.

Deputy Chief Chris Pangaldi responded in Car 22-1, while Assistant Chief Shaun Dlabik responded in his own vehicle.

Apparatus arrival times were as follows: Rescue 51 at 1:53 p.m.; Engine 52 at 1:54 p.m.; Ladder Tower 51 at 1:54 p.m.; Tanker 52 at 1:56 p.m.; Tanker 51 at 1:57 p.m.; Tanker 53 at 1:58 p.m.; Telesquirt 23 at 2:01 p.m.; Rescue 22 at 2:02 p.m.; Rescue 32 at 2:03 p.m.; Ladder Tower 33 at 2:07 p.m.; Rescue 52 at 2:07 p.m.; and Engine 51 at 2:07 p.m.

Pennington and Hopewell firefighters mounted an aggressive interior attack with a pair of 1.75-inch hoselines and were able to contain the fire to the second-floor bedroom along Side D.

Upon arrival, Rescue 22 was positioned along Marshalls Corner-Woodsville Road at Fox Run Road. Peterson remained with Rescue 22 to operate the cascade system.

(Ultimately, Peterson refilled nine SCBA bottles.)

The remainder of Rescue 22ís crew, meanwhile, reported to Command 52 for orders. Accountability tags were given to Chief 52.

At that time, the bulk of the fire had been knocked down. As per Chief 51 (Operations), Rescue 22ís crew reported to the interior of home to assist with salvage and overhaul efforts.

Members of Rescue 22ís crew threw salvage tarps over furniture on the first floor and used a collapsible ladder and floor-runner tarp in the living room to direct water (which was dropping through the ceiling from the burned bedroom above) out a rear door.

Kitchen and Ryan Dlabik shut off all power to the home at the main electrical panel in the basement.

Members of Rescue 22ís crew then reported to the second floor to assist Telesquirt 23ís crew with pulling ceilings and other overhaul efforts in the main fire room.

Pangaldi and Shaun Dlabik, meanwhile, operated on the outside of Side D to open the exterior wall to check for fire extension.

The blaze was officially declared under control at 2:09 p.m. At that time, all second alarm tankers that were responding and Ladder Tower 33 were recalled.

Although flames destroyed the second-floor bedroom and its attached bathroom on Side D, and smoke heavily damaged the whole second floor, the rest of the house was saved.

No one was hurt in the fire, and two dogs that had been inside the burning house escaped unharmed.

Command 52 started releasing other units beginning with Engine 51 at 2:52 p.m.

Rescue 22 was recalled at 3:30 p.m.

As Rescue 22 was returned to Lawrence Township, Lawrence Road Fire Co. was dispatched at 3:32 p.m. to assist Lawrenceville Fire Co. with a fire alarm at 5 Town Court North.

Rescue 22 took in that assignment but was recalled from it at 3:45 p.m. to respond to a working mulch fire at Lawrence Shopping Center.

All photos copyright (c) 2006 by Michael Ratcliffe.

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