Volunteer firefighters battling the blaze, as seen from the north side of the building. (Video by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

See UPDATE below


hot topicFire in a third-floor unit briefly emptied a seven-story apartment building overlooking the Navesink River in Red Bank Thursday afternoon.

Deputy Chief Bobby Holiday gets a cold drink from a volunteer in the building lobby, above. Below, volunteer firefighters exit the building after the fire. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

The 4:13 p.m. alarm at the Colony House apartments, at the corner of Bodman Place and Riverside Avenue, prompted a heavy response of volunteers from Red Bank and neighboring towns.

They encountered heavy smoke emanating from a third-floor corner unit on the east side of the structure, nearest the Molly Pitcher Inn, fire Chief Wayne Hartman told redbankgreen.

No injuries resulted from the fire, he said. The cause of the blaze was not immediately known and is under investigation by borough Fire Marshal Tommy Welsh.

Hartman said firefighters were briefly impeded by a moving van on site that had broken down. But they managed to get water on the blaze within 15 minutes of the alarm and extinguish it in matter of minutes, he said.

The fire was contained to a bedroom, and the unit is temporarily uninhabitable, Hartman said. Other apartments throughout the building were impacted by smoke, but “all those tenants are back in the building as of now,” he said shortly before 7 p.m.

The number of apartments was not immediately available.

Kristina Bonatakis, a planning board member and candidate for borough council, lives in a unit immediately next door to the site of the fire.

She was on a Zoom call related to her job, she said, when her fiancé, Aaron Goldberg, heard fire alarms and screams for help.

Goldberg opened the hall door to find the occupant of unit 3-J, next door, standing in her doorway calling for help as heavy black smoke poured from her apartment, he said.

Maintenance workers were running through the smoky hallway banging on doors, telling occupants to leave, Goldberg said.

One of the workers, cleaner Josimar Dario, said he was working on the sixth floor when he heard the fire alarms, and made his way down the stairs, checking each level until he reached the third floor. There, he said, he encountered heavy smoke, and went along feeling doors for heat, knocking on them and calling out for people to leave.

Goldberg said he was worried about the couple’s two cats, who had to be left behind. Bonatakis, however, was confident that the heavy metal doors on each apartment would limit the smoke infiltration into their unit.

Volunteers from Middletown, Fair Haven, Little Silver, and Tinton Falls assisted in the response.

Update, March 10: According to Fire Marshal Tommy Welsh, the fire was caused by embers from burning sage, used as an aromatic, that came into contact with a mattress.

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