Fire described as accidental

EAST BRUNSWICK — Firefighters extinguished a fire New Year’s Eve at a New Brunswick Avenue house that was being converted into a business.

Police and units from the Old Bridge Volunteer Fire Co. responded to the scene at 4:49 p.m. after a person driving past the house noticed the flames and called 911.

Officials arriving at the scene observed that the exterior wall around the fireplace was on fire. Authorities believe that workers from Hunter Homes and Remodeling had been present earlier in the day to work on the renovations. The workers apparently lit a fire in the fireplace to heat the area.

The fireplace, however, was set up to operate as a gas fireplace, not for burning wood. Fire inspectors found the firebox to be old and in poor condition. Though the workers put out the fire before leaving the building, a crack in the firebox resulted in flames spreading to an interior wall in the home, according to District 1 Fire Marshal John Talbot.

The fire eventually caused damage to a side of the house on both the first and second floors.

Talbot said the house is being converted for use as a child daycare operation.

Police said the interior walls of the home were all down to studs due to the renovations. The rear exterior wall of the house was also removed and open prior to the fire, and a blue tarp covered the house.

There were no injuries in the fire, which is considered accidental. Also responding to the scene were the East Brunswick Rescue Squad and representatives of PSE&G.