Maplewood Family Needs Help After Fire Destroys Burnett Ave Home

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A family of eight lost their Maplewood home on May 9 due to a multi-alarm fire.

The family is currently receiving shelter through the American Red Cross, and SOMA Shares is collecting donated items on their behalf. The cause of the fire is under investigation, although the homeowner told New Jersey News 12 that she thought it was electrical.

South Essex Fire Chief Joseph Alvarez was on scene throughout the blaze, which he said took 3-1/2 hours to bring under control.

No one was seriously injured, but Alvarez said that the South Orange Rescue Squad provided drinking water and treated firefighters and occupants on scene for smoke inhalation.

“At approximately 11 a.m. we were dispatched to a reported structure fire on Burnett Avenue,” Alvarez said. “Squad 32 was first arriving. There was smoke in the area. The fire shown from the front of the house. I pulled up behind [Squad 32] and then immediately saw that the fire was more than just one room.”

Alvarez said that the fire was “autoexposing out of the first floor and into the second floor,” where it rapidly spread due to the dormer construction of the home and lack of fire breaks in the upper floor.

Alvarez said he quickly called the second alarm (ultimately the scene required four alarms, with a fifth alarm to cover the South Essex fire houses in Maplewood and South Orange). Deputy Chief Brett Derewsky arrived and took command, with Alvarez leading operations, and Deputy Chief Michael DeMartini running the command board.

“It was a very difficult fire,” Alvarez told Village Green. “High heat, zero visibility. Companies getting pulled back due to the volume of the fire.” Alvarez said that mutual aid on scene was provided by Irvington, Union, West Orange, Newark, East Orange, Orange and Hillside, with Bloomfield, Bellville, Summit and Springfield covering the fire houses.

“They went on approximately five other calls for service” while other companies fought the Burnett Avenue fire, said Alvarez.

Alvarez praised the South Essex firefighters, the South Orange Rescue Squad and the other companies: “I can’t say enough about the mutual aid. We are so grateful for the communities around us who supported us today.”

Homeowner April Smith told News 12 that she lived in the house with her five children and extended family. She said the flames started in a bedroom in the front of the home, and that four people inside at the time of the fire evacuated safely.

“I just have absolutely no idea what we’re gonna do because that was our whole life,” Smith told News 12. Speaking of her daughter’s room, she said, “All of her things are gone. She played guitar, so I’m sure that’s gone. Everything they had is gone.”

To help Smith and her family recover, contact; read more here:

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