FIRE VICTIM IN CRITICAL CONDITION

The badly burned victim of yesterday’s spectacular Sea Bright fire was identified as 47-year-old Debra Yuhasz.

Today’s Press reports that she’s in critical but stable condition at the St. Barnabas Burn Center in Livingston.

At least 15 units at the Fountains Condominium complex at 1340 Ocean Avenue were destroyed in the fire, which tore through a 32-unit building of the two-building complex fueled by Arctic winds that covered firefighters and their equipment in ice. Some 16 families were displaced.

The Press reports that four firefighterss suffered minor injuries.

They included Sea Bright Fire Lt. Joe Eskridge, who burned his ears rescuing the woman from her balcony, according to the mayor.

Eskridge used an aerial ladder to reach Yuhasz, and then handed her to Lt. Chad Murphy, who relayed her to a former fire chief, Reid Murphy, said Fire Chief Pat Mason.

Apparently referring to the two Murphys, the New York Times says in a picture caption on its first Metro Section page (not online) that “A father-and-son team of firefighters rescued a woman who had been burned, with the younger man dropping her into the older man’s arms.”

The Press story also has these details about the effort:

Doors were taken off their hinges to allow firefighters easier access to the building, but inside, staircases quickly became icy as the water from firefighters’ hoses froze, he said. Hose nozzles could not be turned off because they would freeze, he said.

… firefighters also had to worry about frostbite, hypothermia, falling on the ice and becoming dehydrated without realizing it, said Michael Bascom, the county EMS coordinator.

So rehabilitation units were brought in to provide minor medical care and shelter the emergency workers from the cold weather. Ice-encrusted firefighters were taking turns thawing out in those special units on Monday.

“The conditions are brutal,” Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl said at the scene Monday morning. “There’s ice everywhere.”

Monmouth County Emergency Management Coordinator Harry Conover tells the Press it appears the fire started in Yuhasz’ unit, though no cause has yet been determined.

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