The fire that engulfed the home of a Toms River First Aid Squad captain on Thursday was caused by combustible items being left too close to a space heater, officials determined.
The fire, at 73 East Rolling Hills Court, broke out at about 11 a.m. and was spotted by neighbors who called 911.
When fire crews arrived, the garage was fully engulfed and there were reports of a woman trapped inside the home. Neighbor Joe Mahon along with Tim Dalton, Joe Hayward, Dave Gretkowski, three Toms River Township employees from the Public Lands Department who were working in the area, and Police Officer Andrew Gannon were able to coach the woman to follow their voices to a first floor window of the house, where she was able to escape. She suffered minor burns. There were no injuries reported to civilians or firefighters, however four pets – two birds, a rabbit and a dog – died in the blaze.
A GoFundMe page to help the victims – three residents of the home are first responders in Toms River – Captain Alyssa Golembeski, her sister Firefighter/EMT Ashley Hollingsworth, and her mother EMT Christine Golembeski, has been set up. It exceeded its goal of $5,000 and is approaching $7,000.
The fire was extinguished by 12:30 pm. Fire crews from Station 25 (Toms River Fire Co. 1), Station 26 (Toms River Fire Co. 2), Station 28 (East Dover Fire Company), Station 29 (Silverton Fire Company), Station 30 (Pleasant Plains Fire Company), and Station 53 (Island Heights) responded to fight the fire, officials said.
The fire investigation was conducted by Richard Foster, Kyle Gervasio, Dana Mitchell and Kevin Britton from the Toms River Fire Bureau, Travis Seaman from the Toms River Police Department, and Tom Haskell, John Doran and Chris Bonner from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. It was determined that the cause of the fire was accidental with ordinary combustibles placed too close to a space heater.
The Toms River Bureau of Fire Prevention, in a press release issued Friday, said it would like to remind all residents about the safe use of space heaters:
- Use only appliances that cut off automatically if tipped over.
- Use only models that have been approved by a nationally recognized testing agency (UL or Factory Mutual).
- Keep combustible materials at least three feet away from space heaters.
- If using an electric model, make sure the cord is not frayed or worn. Never use an extension cord with a portable heater.
- Keep children and pets away from portable heaters. It only takes a second for curiosity to lead to a serious burn.
- Turn heaters off when you leave home or go to bed.