STRUCTURE FIRE 49 Van Kirk Road,
A telephone company worker who was trying to drill a hole for a new phone line accidentally started a small fire at 49 Van Kirk Road on Friday, June 27, 2003.
According to police, a Verizon technician was working from the interior of the house when he drilled into the main electrical service line on Side D. The line started to arc and sparks ignited the exterior siding.
A roofing contractor who was on the scene quickly used a portable extinguisher to try to knock down the flames while the homeowner called 911.
At 9:49 a.m., Lawrence Control dispatched both Lawrenceville and Lawrence Road fire companies for a possible structural fire. Engine 52 from Hopewell Borough was then toned out by the Mercer County Central Communications Center as part of an automatic upgrade on Box 23-50.
Deputy Chief Richard Farletta signed on radio in Car 22-1 at 9:51 a.m. Engine 22 and Engine 52 both responded at 9:52 a.m., followed by Telesquirt 23 at 9:53 a.m. and Ladder Tower 23 at 9:55 a.m.
Engine 22 was commanded by Lt. Michael Byrd and driven by Ff. Joseph Dlabik Sr. Lt. Michael Ratcliffe, Ff. Joseph Dlabik Jr., Junior Ff. Charles Commini Jr., Junior Ff. Chris Foley, and Junior Ff. Ryan Dlabik were crew.
Smoke was showing from the two-story house when Bristol-Myers Squibb Emergency Services Chief John Welling (a Lawrenceville volunteer) arrived on scene at 9:54 p.m., followed by Lawrenceville Capt. Butch Bentley.
Farletta reached the scene at 9:55 a.m. Telesquirt 23 arrived next at 9:56 a.m., followed by Ladder Tower 23 at 9:58 a.m., Engine 22 at 9:59 a.m., and then Lawrenceville Chief Don Huber and Engine 52 both at 10:01 a.m.
Telesquirt 23 took up a position in the driveway and a 1.75-inch hoseline was stretched to the front door, but not charged. Welling, meanwhile, took a thermal imaging camera inside to check for fire extension in the walls.
Huber ordered Engine 22 to prepare to back up Telesquirt 23 with tank water if it became necessary. As a result, Engine 22 backed down the driveway to a position behind Telesquirt 23 and the Lawrence Road volunteers connected a 3-inch supply line between the pumpers. All the while, smoke continued to waft from Side D.
Then, without warning, the siding around the entire house became energized and sparks suddenly shot from the gutter all along Side A. Huber immediately called Mercer County Central and requested that PSE&G expedite their response to the scene. Firefighters were ordered to move away from the building for their safety.
Farletta immediately assumed the duties of accountability officer and set up a command and control board at Huber’s chief’s vehicle.
Hopewell’s Tanker 52 responded at 10:01 a.m. and arrived at 10:08 a.m. Also at 10:08 a.m. as a precaution, Huber special-called Pennington Borough’s Tanker 51. Tanker 51 responded at 10:10 a.m. and arrived at 10:18 a.m.
While firefighters were waiting for PSE&G, a 5-inch supply line from Engine 52 was stretched to Engine 22. Tanker 52’s portable pond was also set up on Van Kirk Road in case tanker shuttle operations had to be initiated.
Fortunately, PSE&G reached the scene by 10:10 a.m. and managed to quickly shut off power to the house.
After power was secured, Huber ordered Engine 22’s crew into the house to help Welling check for any possible fire extension. While Byrd and Joseph Dlabik Jr. used Engine 22’s thermal imager to check the first and second floors, Ratcliffe went up into the attic with a pike pole to help check behind some insulation.
No extension was found and remaining hot spots on the exterior were hit with a dry chemical extinguisher.
At 10:20 a.m., Rescue 22 signed on radio with Lt. Shaun Dlabik in command, Ff. Charles Commini driving, and Ff. Kris Palmer and Ff. Chris Dlabik as the crew. But at 10:25 a.m., Huber recalled Rescue 22, Tanker 51, and Tanker 52. Rescue 22 was back in quarters by 10:36 a.m.
At 10:41 a.m., all other apparatus except Telesquirt 23 were released. Engine 22 cleared the scene at 10:45 a.m. and was back at Station 22 by 10:55 a.m.