BLAZE DESTROYS LITTLE SILVER MANSION

ls-fire-121011The main level of the 1982 structure was fully involved when emergency responders arrived on the scene. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

A runaway fire started by holiday candles destroyed a 120-year-old mansion in Little Silver Saturday afternoon.

Two hours after the 1:16 p.m. alarm, firefighters from a wide swath of northeastern Monmouth County had yet to stop the blaze, at 28 Carriage House Lane, just off Silverside Avenue.

One volunteer firefighter suffered a health issue that did not require treatment, and no injuries were reported, said police Chief Dan Shaffery.

According to Shaffery, homeowner Donna Loftus had lit five candles in the kitchen when window curtains caught fire, sending her, two housekeepers and her teenage son running from the sprawling house. The son called in the fire from a cellphone.

The family had been preparing for an annual Christmas party, which was to begin just hours later, neighbors said.

Patrolman Peter Giblin, the first to arrive on the scene, said he found the first floor fully involved in fire. A strong gust of wind swept the wooden structure in blaze, he said.

Firefighters from Little Silver, Shrewsbury, Long Branch, Fair Haven and elsewhere had yet to bring the fire under control by 3:20 p.m as a crews worked an aerial ladder to pry holes into the steeply pitched roof. Others trained water through second-story dormer windows.

Shaffery said firefighters expected the roof would eventually collapse.

According to police, the shingle-sided house, with a wraparound porch and turret, was built in 1892. Donna and Joseph Loftus bought it in 2002, according to property records. Neighbors said the couple meticulously restored the mansion to its former glory, down to the gold-leaf on the exterior trim.

“They did everything over,” said Sara Petersen, who lives next door, in what was the carriage house on an estate once anchored by the mansion. “They had three priceless stained-glass windows” in a single-story circular room, and “they’re gone,” said Petersen. “It’s all gone.”