By JOHN T. WARD
A Sycamore Avenue mansion that its owner said dates back to the 1840s was damaged beyond repair in a fast-moving blaze Monday afternoon. By 9 p.m., even as flames continued to burn in the attic, heavy equipment had begun tearing down the wood-frame structure, ripping open canary yellow clapboard and exposing walls with burned artwork hanging on them.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, and no information was available Monday evening about who if anyone was in the house when the fire was reported at 1:20 p.m. But there were no injuries to occupants or firefighters, fire Chief Pete Gibson told redbankgreen
“We got here and there was already heavy fire on the first floor,” Gibson said. The flames quickly traveled the voids in the wood structure to both the upper two stories and the basement, he said.
Even with help from volunteer firefighters from Red Bank, Little Silver, Rumson, Sea Bright, Tinton Falls, Eatontown and West Long Branch, it took some four hours to bring the inferno under control. The early attack was slowed by weak water pressure, Gibson said, but pumpers from Red Bank and West Long Branch soon boosted the levels.
A report of ammunition going off in the house turned out to be mistaken, Gibson said. The home’s owner, Jeffrey Rich, told firefighters there was no ammunition in the house.
Rich said parts of the house, at 469 Sycamore Avenue, date to the 1840s and 1860s.
By late afternoon, it was clear the structure would have to be demolished, Gibson said, and crews from Red Bank Recycling began the work by 8 p.m.
Gibson said the fire was the most challenging for his volunteer department since the blaze that destroyed the Memory Lanes bowling alley on Newman Springs Road in June, 2009.