The fire appeared to be confined to a space above the bedroom ceiling of a second-floor unit. Below, Patrolman Bob Campanella, who was inside when the ceiling fell, talks to unit owner Todd Tretsky and his fiance, Michele Williams. (Click to enlarge)
Two Red Bank police officers narrowly dodged serious injury when a ceiling collapsed in a fire at the luxury Metropolitan apartments on Wallace Street Tuesday evening.
The cops were responding to a report of smoke in a second-floor corner unit when the ceiling collapsed, showering the room with burning debris and hot water, one of them told redbankgreen.
“Two feet to the right, that would have been us,” said Patrolman Bob Campanella, who was with Patrolman George Travostino. “The burns would have been bad.”
Firefighters were still on the scene at about 7:30 p.m., uncertain if they had fully extinguished the fire.
Unit owner Todd Tretsky said officials told him the fire appeared to be electrical in nature and might have been burning for hours before it began filling the apartment with smoke.
Tretsky told redbankgreen he had just returned home from work shortly before 7 p.m. and found his fiance, Michele Williams, in the hallway playing with children.
“I opened the door and saw smoke, and asked Michele if she knew what was going on,” he said. “She didn’t know anything about it.”
Answering Tretsky’s call to 911, Travostino and Campanella were in a corner bedroom unit trying to determine the source of the smoke when the ceiling came crashing in, dumping hot water and burning materials, Campanella said.
“One of them yelled, ‘Get everybody out,'” Tretsky said.
Reports of two officers trapped in the unit brought an outpouring of volunteer fire, first aiders and police to the scene, and the building’s occupants were evacuated, authorities said. No injuries were reported immediately.
Onlookers watched as a firefighter climbed into the bedroom from an exterior ladder.
Authorities speculated that the water accumulated above the ceiling from a sprinkler triggered by the blaze, but cautioned they had not had an opportunity to examine the scene.
The 37-unit Metropolitan was built in 2008 as an upmarket condo project, with some units priced as high as $1.2 million. But the unsold units were converted to rentals, at monthly rates of $2,600 to $3,200, in 2009 after sales went nowhere and an attempt to sell them at auction failed.