Avalon Apts. go up in flames

Feb. 4 fire destroys incomplete sections of construction project on Boyden

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MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Maplewood firefighters rushed to Boyden Avenue in the early morning hours of Saturday, Feb. 4, to battle a six-alarm fire raging at the Avalon Bay construction site. The fire took more than four hours to extinguish.

According to the Maplewood Fire Department, at approximately 1:30 a.m. firefighters responded to the area along Boyden Avenue near the corner with Springfield Avenue for the reported structure fire. Luckily, Engine 32 is housed directly across the street from the construction site, where Avalon Bay has been building 235 luxury apartments.

Engine 32 encountered heavy fire conditions in the four-story apartment building that had been awaiting completion.

Additional alarms were transmitted, bringing in several mutual aid companies to assist with operations, according to the Maplewood Fire Department. Several hydrants were utilized to establish water supplies and initial firefighting operations were held to the exterior due to the volume of fire and extreme heat. Interior operations were conducted in the section that was complete to prevent the fire from spreading to that area.

Maplewood Fire Chief Michael Dingelstedt told the News-Record on Feb. 6 that Maplewood received aid from the fire departments in Irvington, South Orange, Millburn, Orange, West Orange, East Orange, Union, Newark, Montclair, Bloomfield, Nutley, Roseland, Springfield, Fairfield, Kenilworth, Elizabeth, Verona, Livingston, Caldwell, Essex Fells, West Caldwell and North Caldwell.

“To the local fire companies from around the area, I want to thank you all of them for their response,” Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca said at a Feb. 4 press conference.

Dingelstedt seconded that sentiment, adding that, during the height of the fire’s ferocity, approximately 120 additional firefighters were aiding Maplewood.

“Due to the hard work and tremendous effort from the firefighters, they were able to stop the fire before it got into the completed section,” Dingelstedt said during the Feb. 4 press conference.

According to the township, the construction was being completed in three stages; only stage 1 had been finished. Firefighters were able to prevent damage to that area.

“The area that burnt was the area that was under construction,” DeLuca verified at the press conference. “The area that is completed was saved.”

One Maplewood firefighter sustained a non-life threatening injury and was transported to the hospital, before being released shortly afterward. According to Dingelstedt, the firefighter was able to return to duty Monday, Feb. 6.

The nature of the fire is being investigated by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. According to ECPO spokeswoman Katherine Carter, the cause of the fire is undetermined and there were no injuries.

In the meantime, it seems that the township will be holding off on jumping back into construction.

“We also now will meet with Avalon Bay to understand what happened,” DeLuca said at the Township Committee’s budget hearing Feb. 4. “And before we give out permits again for them to rebuild, we will make sure, whatever occurred here, there will be no situation where this could happen again.”