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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Fire leaves 34 homeless

An early morning fire at 1003 Park Avenue at the corner of Martine Avenue turned out to be at the root of the report of helicopters that PT got on Wednesday morning. The very large red brick apartment building consists of ten apartments and 34 people were displaced, including one family of eight.

The fire hit before school opened, catching a large number of children still at home. PT is told that two women were taken to Muhlenberg suffering from smoke inhalation. PT also hears that the principal of Evergreen School generously offered breakfast to some of the children and a safe place to stay until more permanent arrangements could be made for them.

It appears the cause is related to a space heater that may have overtaxed the electric lines in the building. PT has received conflicting reports that either the heat was completely shut off or that the owner has it turned down so low at night that the tenants resort to space heaters because of the chill.

Tax records list the owner as 'Martine Realty, LLC,' with the owner's address the same as the building -- which evidently is NOT THE CASE, as the super doesn't even know the owner's last name and only has a 973 area code phone number.

Local agencies worked together to address the needs of the displaced residents. Plainfield Action Services, the city's social service unit, arranged for those displaced to be fed breakfast at the Senior Center until the Red Cross could arrange for housing and vouchers for food. The YMCA and the Salvation Army are also coordinating in offering assistance on an 'as needed' basis.

It is not clear at this time whether the Fire Department was able to make use of the list of emergency contact information that multi-families are supposed to keep on file with the Clerk's office and update yearly.

At 1:00 this afternoon, Plainfield Action Services was working on finding out whether the Fire Department would allow any of the families to return to their apartments, as the fire seemed to be contained to a relatively small portion of the premises.

Thanks to AM, MP, RT and RA for the leads and info.

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