19 Aug 2014
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Firefighters Battle Four-Alarm Blaze on North Avenue West

A fire destroyed the top two floors of a residence.

Firefighters from the and several nearby municipalities are continuing to battle a blaze that has already destroyed the top two floors of a home at 217 North Ave. West, across the street from Dooley Funeral Home.

Smoke billowed from the second floor windows and flames could be seen shooting from the roof of the two-and-a-half-story structure at about 6 p.m. on June 24, as firefighters aimed heavy streams of water at the residence, hoping to bring the fire under control. Across the street, Jeanette Bilson, the owner of the home, sat on a chair next to her family, watching crews from Cranford, Linden, Garwood, Kenilworth, Roselle, Roselle Park and Westfield work to extinguish the blaze. Bilson and her family were not in the home when the fire began to fully engulf the upper floor. Her son, Bill, is a local emergency service worker. None of the family members were injured in the fire.

The fire was reported just after 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. Cranford Police Officer Joe Stulpin was one of the first officials to arrive at the scene. Stulpin confirmed that everyone was out of the house when firefighters arrived. The fire quickly spread throughout the upper part of the home, causing Cranford firefighters to request mutual aid from nearby municipalities. As the situation was elevated to a three-alarm fire, crews were forced to open the roof.

At about 5:45 p.m., commanding officers on the scene requested that an EMS Special Operations Tent be set up across the street from the house. As crews continued to try and bring the fire under control, firefighters could be seen exiting the house and going to the EMS tent, where they were given water. Emergency medical technicians took blood pressure and examined a few of the firefighters as they crossed the street to the medical tent.

At about 6:20 p.m., a partial roof collapse caused additional flames and smoke to shoot from the top of the house. Water from the numerous hose lines spilled out the windows and down the sides of the residence. Heavy smoke and spray from the hoses reached the large crowd of spectators that lined the opposite side of the street, watching as crews struggled to bring the blaze under control.

At approximately 6:38 p.m., firefighters attempted to stretch a hose line into the house, in an effort to attack the flames from inside. The emergency workers exited the dwelling minutes later as smoke and flames continued to shoot out of the roof. At 7:10 p.m., the situation was elevated to a four-alarm fire, in order to allow additional fire crews to respond and relieve the units that were already on the scene.

The exact cause of the fire is not yet known. Fire Chief Leonard Dolan, who was actively involved in the emergency response, was unavailable for comment as of about 8 p.m.

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