By JOHN T. WARD
The fire may have been caused by a bug-repellent candle.
Volunteer firefighters responding to the 1:26 a.m. alarm found smoke pouring from multiple windows of the two-story wood-frame house at 8 McLaren Street, near Spring Street.
Homeowners Lucille Mauriello and Michael Natelli had escaped with their three cats and three dogs, leaving behind several birds and fish in the basement, Mauriello said.
Natelli told redbankgreen he and his wife were awake and watching television in a room at the rear of the first floor when a lighted citronella candle left out on the deck “exploded,” setting the area around a doorway ablaze.
Firefighters stopped the flames shortly before 2 a.m.
The blaze caused heavy damage to the rear of the house and smoke damage throughout, leaving it temporarily uninhabitable.
One of the cats was believed to have suffered smoke inhalation; all three were transported by auxiliary volunteers to the Red Bank Veterinary Hospital. The dogs were unhurt, and the conditions of the birds and fish were not immediately known.