Torch Used For Weeding Destroys Homes

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Several homes were damaged in the fire. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  BRICK – The Chief of Brick Bureau of Fire Safety Kevin C. Batzel said they have completed their investigation into an afternoon fire that destroyed two waterfront homes on Bay Way on September 27.

  The occupant had used a hand-held propane torch used to burn weeds and debris along the base of the house which started the blaze.

  “That’s our determination,” Batzel said in an October 4 phone interview. “The female occupant of the house periodically cleans weeds from her yard with a handheld landscaper torch and burns the weeds.”

  On the day of the fire, there were 18 to 20 mph wind gusts when the homeowner started burning weeds at the front of the house. She moved in a clockwise position to the back of the house, which is where the fire started, he said.

  “She was working on the opposite side of the house and was not aware that the fire had started in that area,” Batzel said. “A passerby had advised her that her house was on fire and she indicated ‘no, no, no, it’s just smoke from my torch, I’m just burning weeds,’ and didn’t know her house was on fire.”

  But by that time, her house and the house next door, which are only separated by 10 or 12 feet, was also on fire, Batzel said. The fire started near the deck of 31 Bay Way, but after the deck burned it extended up the siding and spread quickly to the roof.

  The house was occupied by a couple who are in their 70s, and the house next door, 29 Bay Way, was being used as a summer house and was unoccupied, he said.

The Silverton Fire Company fought the blaze from the lagoon. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  “Firefighters arrived within four minutes and encountered a heavily involved main structure and exposure [neighboring] structure, so that’s why it was upgraded immediately, en route, because they could see the black smoke,” Batzel said.

  Both homes had vinyl siding, which burns almost like gasoline – it burns very quickly and it’s extremely flammable, he said.

  Normal procedure is the initial dispatch goes out to Fire District #1. Once additional calls came in from other people, it was instantly upgraded to a third alarm fire by the responding chief, which brought in the additional two fire companies, Batzel explained.

  Brick firefighters were assisted by firefighters from Silverton, Ocean Beach, Point Pleasant Boro, Point Pleasant Beach, Lakewood, Jackson Township and by the Ocean County Fire Coordinator.

  Both Silverton and Ocean Beach deployed their fire boats to help fight the blaze.

  “The fire companies did a fantastic job, considering the conditions,” he said. “They responded very quickly and they kept damage to a minimum, because there were embers flying all over the place.”

  Batzel said the bureau cautions people from throwing cinders or ashes into their garbage cans, burning open pits. He said any type of open flame needs to be closely monitored and supervised and not done under high wind conditions.

The fire spread quickly due to high winds. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  During the September 27 Council Meeting, Mayor John G. Ducey thanked the township firefighters for their response to the fire.

  “Our volunteer fire [department] did an unbelievable job with getting it out,” he said. “It was an inferno, and luckily only two houses were lost.”

  No residents were injured in the blaze. One firefighter who was injured has since recovered, the mayor said.

  “A couple of other houses had some damage, like siding that melted and things like that, but thank you to the volunteer firefighters, men and women,” he said.

  “Because of the wind, that thing could have just kept going down, every single house on that street could have been gone, if it wasn’t for the volunteer fire and police who were taking control of the situation and making sure everybody was safe and keeping people away from the structures on the water and on the street,” Mayor Ducey said. “Thank you to everyone involved with that.”

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