By JOHN T. WARD
Fire destroyed a vacant Red Bank house under renovation Wednesday morning.
The rush-hour blaze at 28 Rector Place sent a blanket of white smoke over the downtown and points east for about two hours.
Police Chief Darren McConnell, who spotted the smoke from nearby, said he was the first responder on the scene, where he found the front porch ablaze. He said he determined that the house was empty of occupants.
Volunteer firefighters fought the blaze as it traveled into the attic, where it erupted in heavy flame at 9 a.m., prompting a blaring of truck horns to alert them to immediately evacuate.
The fire appeared to be largely under control by 9:45 a.m. Fire Chief Stu Jensen was not immediately available to discuss a possible cause.
The house is located between Route 35 and West Front Street, where north-south traffic has been prohibited in recent days for work on the New Jersey Transit crossing on Shrewsbury Avenue.
The property changed hands in September, when Shimshon Herz of Lakewood bought it for $215,000, according to Monmouth County records.
redbankgreen was unable to immediately determine if building permits had been issued.
A neighbor, John Talarico, told redbankgreen that contractors working on the house Monday were using a portable heater on the porch, with a metal tube pumping heat into the house.
Markings on the device indicated that it was a Remington brand kerosene heater. Fire Marshal Tommy Welsh said he had not yet had a chance to inspect the device to determine if it had a role in the fire.
The heater was on the front lawn when he arrived, McConnell said. He didn’t know if it had been moved after the blaze began, he told redbankgreen.
Firefighters from Fair Haven, Middletown and Shrewsbury also responded.
The fire was the second on the block in 15 months. In September, 2017, an early morning blaze caused heavy damage to a home closer to the Route 35 intersection.