Keansburg, NJ Boarding Home Fire, Jan 1981


KEANSBURG, N. J. (AP) -- Fire roared through a two-story brick boarding home in this central New Jersey community before dawn today, and Middletown Fire Chief RICHARD O'SHAUGHNESAY said at least 13 people were killed.
Authorities said they could not account for 18 other residents or an undetermined number of employees at the facility, which housed 114 elderly and mentally retarded residents.
At least 14 residents of the Beachview Rest Home, on Raritan Bay about 30 miles south of Newark, were injured in the blaze, authorities said.
NICK NAUMETZ, 67, who fled from the top floor, said the fire flashed through the home.
"It was unbelievable .... the smoke," NAUMETZ said. "The sirens went off. I looked at my watch and it was 4 a. m. Smoke built up rapidly, in no time at all ... all of a sudden."
The heat of the smoldering building was so intense that firefighters were unable to enter in a search for victims until nearly six hours after the fire broke out.
"When we got there, flames were coming out of the entire front of the building," said LT. ALBERT SCOTT, who received hospital treatment for smoke inhalation and a broken ankle in the fire. "It's pretty well a mess."
Survivors, some naked, others in pajamas, were huddled in front of the building in sub-freezing temperatures when authorities first arrived. Most were evacuated from a one-story, wood-frame extension at the rear of the main brick structure, a former hotel, SCOTT said.
Six residents initially thought to be unaccounted for were found safe elsewhere.
The evacuation was orderly, with "no screaming or nothing," NAUMETZ said.
One man apparently leaped from a second-floor window and was found dead in front of the building clutching the window screen, said First Aid Squad Capt. FRANK FOLZ.
Another man was found dead behind the building, he said. Both victims were badly burned.
Some evacuees, their faces blackened by soot, huddled under blankets in a Keansburg Fire House, and about a dozen others found shelter across the street from the boarding home in the home of Keansburg Police Sgt. KEVIN ROBINSON. Still others were taken to the Newpoint Fire Company in Keansburg.
The fire which erupted at 3:57 a. m. EST, was still "burning like blazes" two hours later, said Detective JAMES G. BEATTY, JR.
Some 200 firefighters from a half dozen neighboring communities brought the blaze under control just before 7 a. m.
Among the injured were 11 patients and two firefighters, authorities said.
Bayshore Community Hospital officials said at least three people were in the intensive care unit, five had been treated and released, and more were expected to be admitted.
Neither the cause of the fire nor its point of origin was immediately known, authorities said.
The Monmouth County prosecutor's office and state police arson squad were investigating.
Boarding home owner FRANCES CAPPADONA said the building didn't have sprinklers, which were not required under state law, but it did have smoke detectors.
A total of 23 people, many of them mentally handicapped, were killed in July when flames riipped through the Brinley Inn in Bradley Beach, 10 miles from Keansburg.

The Daily Intelligencer Doylestown Pennsylvania 1981-01-09

Transcriber's Note: The total fatalities of this fire was 31.