Firefighters can be heard crying “get out” before truck horns signal the same message as the resurgent fire tears through the second floor. Below, a firefighter at a second-floor window earlier in the effort. (Video and photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
The blaze, at 16 Leonard Street, just east of Bridge Avenue, proved a tough challenge to volunteer firefighters, who were forced to flee the home’s interior when a situation that appeared to be under control turned into a resurgent inferno.
The fire was raging in the front of the house before firefighters arrived, according to passerby Paul McCue, who took the photo above. Below, an unidentified victim is transported away by medical personnel. (Photo above by Paul McCue. Click to enlarge)
Little official information about the blaze was available by early evening. Police Captain Mike Clay said the alarm came in at 3:09 p.m. and that it was believed everyone inside had gotten out safely.
Four or five people were believed by neighbors to have been inside. One, a young man, was forced to jump from a second-floor window at the back of the house, said Jake Rademacher, a Bridge Avenue resident who spoke to him from his driveway before he leapt.
“I saw a guy hanging out the back window, choking from the smoke,” Rademacher told redbankgreen. Over the six-foot fence that separated the two properties, Rademacher told the man, “you have to jump, you don’t have much choice.”
The man jumped and was taken away for medical care, though his identity and condition were not yet known, said Clay.
Others who had been inside sat in a minivan parked nearby as firefighters from Red Bank, Fair Haven, Little Silver, Middletown and Sea Bright fought the blaze or provided backup. More than an hour into the effort, a man was seen being taken by ambulance to a gurney, but his identity and the circumstances were not immediately known.
Paul McCue, a former Fair Haven police officer who happened by before firefighters arrived, said the front of the house was fully engaged in fire.
A short while later, with much of the heavy black smoke having turned white, it appeared firefighters were close to bringing it under control. Still, fire in the eaves above a second-story window on the east side of the house could be seen to be spreading along the roofline with firefighters inside.
Shortly before 4 p.m, the fire roared back to life, engulfing the second floor as firefighters screamed to each other to “get out” and horns on trucks parked out front blared the same message. Within minutes, a large part of the roof had collapsed and the entire house appeared to be ablaze anew.
Chief Pete DeFazio was not immediately available for comment.
The house is owned by Shirley Sharkey, according to tax records. Neighbors said she lived in the house with her husband, Rich, and other occupants the neighbors did not know.