Maplewood FD and PD rescue three from devastating house fire

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MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Three people were injured — two seriously — from a Maplewood house fire on Tuesday, June 2, on Essex Avenue.

On June 2 at approximately 3:20 a.m., Maplewood Fire Department responded to the report of a house fire at 19 Essex Ave. Upon arrival, crews were met with heavy fire to the wood-frame residence. Additionally, according to Maplewood Fire Chief Michael Weber, the fire was impinging on the adjacent homes at 17 and 21 Essex Ave., and a vehicle was burning in the driveway to 19 Essex Ave. as a result of radiant heat. The power service line to 19 Essex Ave. had also burned away from the building and was arcing on the ground in front of the structure, creating an additional hazard.

“The Maplewood Police Department had arrived on the scene prior to the fire department and had evacuated one occupant and removed a second occupant from the rear first-floor hallway of 19 Essex Ave.,” Weber told the News-Record. “The police department also evacuated the occupants from the adjacent structures.

“The fire department received a report that there was a victim trapped in a second-floor bedroom of the main fire building,” he continued. “The victim was rescued from the second-floor bedroom by Maplewood firefighters via ground ladder.”

The fire was extinguished with the assistance of mutual aid companies from South Orange, Irvington, East Orange, Montclair and Union. The South Orange First Aid Squad also reported to the scene.

The cause of the fire appears to be accidental and is currently under investigation, according to Weber.

“The three victims are being treated at the Saint Barnabas Burn Center,” Weber said. “I cannot provide any additional information on the condition of the victims at this time.”

Those injured include MaryAnne Wiktorowicz, a longtime nurse, and her 99-year-old father, for whom Wiktorowicz is the primary caregiver. The third burn victim, a male, has not been identified.

Wiktorowicz’s daughter, Rebekah Gale, has set up a GoFundMe fundraiser at to help the family. As of June 9, the fund had raised more than $63,000.

“MaryAnne is a nurse who has worked in the community for 40 years. She’s a primary caretaker of her 99-year-old WWII veteran father suffering from dementia who was also injured in the fire. She’s an invested community service advocate for the homeless, human rights and animal rights,” Gale wrote on the GoFundMe page. “She’s lost her car, house, medical supplies for her dad and her pets have perished. Please pray for their speedy recovery.”

According to Gale, her grandfather suffered minor burns, while her mother was admitted to the Burn Unit ICU. Gale did not have information on the third victim, identified only as “George,” as he is not a family member to her.

Photos Courtesy of the Maplewood NJ FMBA L-25