By JOHN T. WARD
The fire that destroyed a Red Bank house Wednesday was blamed on a portable heater, according to the borough’s top fire inspector.
The heater had been rigged to keep contractors warm while the house was undergoing illegal renovation work, redbankgreen has learned.
The fire, at 28 Rector Place, started when a torpedo-shaped heater that ran on kerosene and electricity was being used on the front porch to provide warmth for contractors working inside, said Fire Marshal Tommy Welsh.
The heater had been jury-rigged with a metal tube to pump heat into the house through a window, Welsh said. At around 8 a.m., with just one contractor inside, the device became dislodged, causing the duct to detach and the front wall of the house to ignite, Welsh said.
Seeing the fire, the unidentified worker dragged the heater from the porch to prevent it from exploding, he said. The device was on the front lawn when police Chief Darren McConnell, who had seen the smoke from nearby, arrived on scene and called in the blaze, Welsh said.
The fire then traveled through voids between inner and outer walls to the attic, Welsh said. The attic erupted in flame at 9 a.m. as volunteer firefighters were inside the house, prompting an evacuation alarm. The blaze was brought under control about 45 minutes later.
The inspection afterward found “multiple areas of remodeling requiring permits” that were not obtained by the homeowner, Welsh said. They included electrical, plumbing, and construction work, he said, though he noted that “none contributed to the cause of the fire.”
“It was illegal work,” Business Administrator Ziad Shehady told redbankgreen.
Shimshon Herz of Lakewood bought the house in September for $215,000, according to Monmouth County records.
According to documents filed late Wednesday, Herz has been hit with a $2,000 penalty for failure to obtain permits. He’s also been ordered to demolish the structure by January 4.
Herz did not immediately respond to a voicemail message Thursday morning.