PRINCETON: Fire destroys George Drive house

A fast-moving fire destroyed a single-family house at 4 George Drive, off Cherry Valley Road in Princeton on Saturday afternoon.

By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
   A fast-moving fire destroyed a single-family house at 4 George Drive, off Cherry Valley Road on the Princeton-Montgomery border, Saturday afternoon.
   There were no injuries in the two-alarm fire, which was called in shortly before 1:30 p.m. The cause of the fire is under investigation, but it appears to have started on the deck at the rear of the house, Princeton Fire Chief Dan Tomalin said.
   The fire was called in by Andreza Brandimarti and her husband, Ricardo, as they were driving on Cherry Valley Road on their way to a friend’s house. They noticed a column of dark smoke, and turned onto George Drive to investigate.
   Ms. Brandimarti got out of the car and knocked on the door. When no one answered the door, Ms. Brandimarti said, she walked around to the rear of the house. That’s when she saw the homeowner, who was trying to put out the fire with a garden hose. The fire had already begun to spread.
   Jennifer Lau, whose home on Meetinghouse Court is around the corner from the house that burned, said she heard people screaming and assumed it was a party. A few minutes later, a police officer told the family to evacuate their home, she said.
   ”I looked outside and there was black smoke on the roof. There was fire (coming from) the windows,” Ms. Lau said, adding that she could feel the heat emanating from the fire as neighbors gathered on the corner of Meetinghouse Court and George Drive to watch.
   Chief Tomalin of the Princeton Fire Department said the homeowner was inside the house when the fire broke out. The homeowner heard some crackling and popping noises and went outside, and that’s when he discovered the fire.
   Chief Tomalin said that when he arrived on the scene, “the whole back corner” of the house was on fire. There was heavy fire on the second floor and part of the first floor was starting to burn, he said.
   The Princeton Fire Department was dispatched at 1:24 p.m., and the first fire truck arrived at 1:36 p.m., Chief Tomalin said. Because of the heavy amount of fire, firefighters did not enter the house to put out the fire and instead attacked it from the outside.
   Firefighters immediately began to spray water on the vinyl siding on the house next door to 4 George Drive to prevent it from igniting, he said. The heat from the fire melted the siding, and strips of the siding peeled off the house and were lying on the lawn.
   It took firefighters about 40 minutes to bring the fire under control, which means they were able to prevent it from spreading, Chief Tomalin said. They extinguished the main body of fire, and then they searched for “hot spots,” or pockets of hidden fire that could flare up.
   ”The guys did a good job (in stopping the fire),” Chief Tomalin said.
   In addition to the Princeton Fire Department, firefighters from Lawrence, Plainsboro, Montgomery, West Windsor and South Brunswick townships responded. A fire engine from the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab also responded.