The front of the house was ablaze when passerby Paul McCue shot this video. Authorities said the fire appears to have started on the front porch. Below, the house after the fire. (Video by Paul McCue. Photo below by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


Four volunteer firefighters and one resident suffered non-life-threatening injuries in a house fire that officials called one of the most challenging in recent Red Bank history Thursday.

By early evening, with heavy equipment standing by to demolish the burned hulk of 16 Leonard Street, fire officials had made a preliminary determination that a cigarette or something similar ignited the front porch, triggering the blaze.

Fire officials inspecting the house Thursday evening. (Photo John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

One Red Bank firefighter suffered a neck burn, another had a possible broken wrist, and a cadet appeared to have broken a finger in the firefighting effort, officials said. A Fair Haven volunteer also was transported to a hospital with a hypertension-related ailment, they said.

In addition, William Sharkey, the son of homeowner Shirley Sharkey, was reported to have been injured jumping out a second-story window to escape the fire, reported at 3:09 p.m.

Safely evacuating before firefighters arrived were Sharkey; Richard Feller; Tiffany Wojcik; Michael Gaynor; and a dog, according to Deputy Fire Marshal Tommy Welsh.

The tally could have been far worse, said Fire Chief Pete DeFazio. After about 40 minutes of battling the fire, “I thought we had it” under control, he said. “And all of a sudden, it was gone. The attic just erupted.”

An unnamed firefighter was on the roof, cutting a hole, when the attic roared into flames, causing the chimney to collapse, said Fire Marshal Stanley Sickels.

The sudden resurgence prompted firefighters to blare their truck horns as a signal for their colleagues to evacuate the building, the first time such a signal has been needed in recent memory, Sickels told redbankgreen.

“This was a dangerous fire,” he said, complicated by a “possible hoarding situation” that both fueled the blaze and impeded firefighters’ movements. A neighbor who asked not to be identified said the interior of the house was “a maze” of hoarded items.

Sickels said it appeared that flames from the front porch swept in through the open front door and upstairs in the wood-frame house.

Volunteers from Fair Haven, Little Silver, Middletown Rumson and Sea Bright joined Red Bank firefighters in the effort.