Route 518, Hopewell Township
Thursday, December 26, 2002, one crew from Lawrence Road Fire Co. responded
to a two-alarm structure fire in Hopewell Township, as other Station
22 members responded, during the same incident, to cover Pennington
The fire at 303 Lambertville-Hopewell Road (Route 518), near the corner
of New Road, started in the two-bay garage located on Side B of the
single-story home. It was reported by a neighbor at 3:17 p.m. and the
first alarm on Box 52-40 was immediately transmitted by the Mercer County
Central Communications Center.
The garage was engulfed with flames when Hopewell Borough Deputy Fire
Chief Ed Van Doren arrived on the scene at 3:25 p.m. He quickly ordered
a second alarm.
The second alarm was transmitted at 3:28 p.m. Dispatched on that alarm
was Lawrence Roads Rescue 22.
Rescue 22 responded at 3:31 p.m. with Assistant Chief Wayne Hannon in
command, Paid Driver Robert Santello driving, and a crew that consisted
of Capt. Patrick Kent, Lt. Shaun Dlabik, Ff. Ed Budzinski, and Ff. Michael
Ratcliffe. Responding in Car 22-1 were Deputy Chief Richard Farletta
and his son, Ff. Matt Farletta.
In addition to Rescue 22, the following apparatus all responded to the
fireground: Rescue 52, Engine 52 and Tanker 52 from Hopewell Borough;
Engine 51, Tanker 51, and Ladder Tower 51 from Pennington Borough; Telesquirt
53 and Tanker 53 from Union-Titusville Fire Co.; Engine 50 from Hopewell
Valley Emergency Services (Hopewells career crew); Telesquirt
23 and Ladder Tower 23 from Lawrenceville; a tanker from Montgomery
Fire Co. #1 (Somerset County Station 45); an engine from Montgomery
Fire Co. #2 (Somerset County Station 46); an engine from Rocky Hill
Fire Co. (Somerset County Station 53); a tanker from Griggstown Fire
Co. (Somerset County Station 35); and a tanker from Upper Makefield
Fire Co. (Bucks County, Pa., Station 71).
Several 1.75-inch hoselines were placed in service to attack the blaze
and the bulk of the fire was knocked down by 3:45 p.m. Rescue 22 arrived
on scene at 3:47 p.m. and its cascade system was immediately put to
work. Rescue 22s crew eventually refilled about three dozen SCBA
Ultimately, the garage was completely destroyed, its roof partially
collapsed. But the rest of the home was saved from the flames, although
it did sustained a significant amount of smoke and water damage. No
one was hurt.
Homeowners Marlon and Celia Bernstein were in Florida on vacation at
the time. The house was assessed in 2002 at $134,600 and the land at
another $93,100, according to data filed with Mercer County.
Starting about 4:30 p.m., many of the units that responded on the second
alarm were released from the fireground by Deputy 52. Rescue 22, however,
remained on scene because its crew was still refilling SCBA bottles.
The time that Rescue 22 left the scene was not logged by Mercer County
Central but Rescue 22 was back in quarters at the Lawrence Road firehouse
by 5:40 p.m. The last apparatus to leave, Rescue 52, cleared at 6:03
During the incident, Mercer County Central relocated Lawrence Roads
Engine 22 to the Pennington Borough firehouse for cover-up purposes.
Also sent to stand by with Engine 22 at Station 51 were Ladder Tower
31 from Prospect Heights Fire Co. and a tanker from Sergeantsville Fire
Co. (Hunterdon County Station 47).
Engine 22 to dispatched to cover Station 51 at 3:39 p.m. and responded
at 3:42 p.m., with Ff. Charles Commini as officer, Ff. Joseph Dlabik
Sr. as driver, and Ff. Joseph Dlabik Jr. and Ff. Walter Hlewicki as
Engine 22 reached Station 51 at 3:51 p.m. Since Rescue 22s crew
was being utilized solely for cascade operations at the scene, Shaun
Dlabik went with Deputy Chief Farletta and his son to Station 51. Lt.
Dlabik and Matt Farletta then joined Engine 22s crew. Engine 22
stood by at the Pennington Borough firehouse until 5:26 p.m. without
receiving any assignments, and then returned to Station 22 by 5:40 p.m.
An investigation into the cause of the fire was conducted by Hopewell
Township Fire Marshal Jason Belmont, Hopewell Township Police Detectives
Dan McKeown and Lance Maloney, Detective Gary Wasko from Mercer County
Prosecutors Office, and Mercer County Assistant Fire Marshal John
Based on their investigation, the fire was determined to have been arson
and a suspect, Kenneth F. Bacorn, 38, of Lambertville, was subsequently
arrested and charged with setting the fire.
Bacorn, a roofing contractor and former Lambertville volunteer firefighter
who spent time in prison in 1994 after being convicted of a Hunterdon
County arson, had recently had a dispute with the Bernsteins over work
he had done for them. Police alleged Bacorn had set the blaze as retaliation
against the homeowners.