Residents from nine units were displaced by the fire and the resulting water damage by the sprinklers. The building was evacuated safely, however one resident suffered a heart attack during the process and reportedly died later during the night at a local hospital.
The 184-unit apartment building is located at the Brick Township Housing Authority complex off Chambers Bridge Road. Its apartments are reserved for low-income senior citizens, with eight units reserved for 24 developmentally disabled adults in a portion leased to The Arc of Ocean County.
The fire broke out at about 8 p.m. Monday night when a resident in a fourth floor unit mistakenly tuned on the wrong burner of a kitchen stove, said Kevin Batzel, director of the Brick Township Bureau of Fire Safety. The resident meant to turn on a front burner to make a cup of tea, however she ignited a rear burner that had a container of grease on top of it.
The woman called 911, and firefighters arrived within four minutes, Batzel said. By the time they arrived, the building’s automated sprinklers had already started to knock down the flames, leaving the apartment with only minor fire damage to the kitchen. As it was a fourth floor unit, however, several units below suffered water damage.
“This is a success story with the fire sprinklers,” said Batzel. “That whole building could have gone up if it didn’t have them.”
Of the nine residents who were displaced, several were able to stay with friends in the building and a few others were relocated to the Hilton Garden Inn hotel on Route 70.
As the entire building was evacuated, however, one man – who was not identified by name due to privacy concerns – suffered a heart attack at the scene and died at a local hospital later in the night after EMS units provided initial treatment and transport.
The Breton Woods, Pioneer Hose and Laurelton fire companies responded to the scene to fight the fire. Brick Police and volunteer EMS members also responded.
The water damage suffered in the lower-floor units was determined to be minor by a building inspector, Batzel said.
“They’ll be able to repair those units and the residents will be back in no time,” he said.