COURT HOUSE – Two large midday fires destroyed residential homes June 28 and June 29. The incidents were unrelated, but similar in nature. The smoke rising from the blazes could be seen from miles away.
Although each fire was within the response area for the Cape May Court House Volunteer Fire Company, multiple surrounding departments assisted.
In both cases, the fire department notified the American Red Cross.
“They meet with the homeowners and make arrangements for housing and those kinds of things,” said Chief John McCann, of the Court House Volunteer Fire Company.
Both two-story dwellings were fully involved by the time the fire departments arrived. As a result, the attack was defensive, McCann said. They could do nothing to fight the interior.
Each fire remains under investigation by the Cape May County Fire Marshal’s Office, as of July 1, according to Cape May County Fire Marshal Conrad Johnson.
“None of the recent fires are suspicious at this point,” Johnson wrote in an email to the Herald.
June 28 Fire
The first fire, at 2 Maple Court, began mid-afternoon June 28. McCann told the Herald the call came in at 3:14 p.m.
“Everyone was outside the house,” McCann said, and no injuries were reported.
Middle Township Emergency Medical Services (EMS) responded on standby in the event of any injuries.
“It probably took about an hour and a half to get it under control, but we were there until 8 p.m. because it was a two-and-a-half-story house and the roof had collapsed. When the roof falls in, you’re dealing with hotspots,” McCann said.
By the time the scene was cleared, the damage was clear. The entire house was blackened, bared to the frame.
Jonathan Moratelli organized a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the homeowners. He said that his in-laws, Marty and Linda Adams, would need help to recover from the devastating blaze.
“Today, at approximately 2 p.m., a fast-moving fire started in Marty and Linda’s home and within a short amount of time, it was fully engulfed in flames. Marty and Linda are long-time residents of Court House and many of you know them,” Moratelli wrote on the GoFundMe page.
“Let’s come together for them through this very unfortunate tragedy,” he continued.
As of July 1, the fundraiser had raised over $24,000.
McCann said that firefighters from Stone Harbor, Ocean View, Dennis Township, Tuckahoe, Rio Grande, Green Creek, and Goshen assisted.
June 29 Fire
The second fire, at 7 West 3rd Avenue, started just before noon June 29. An early video of the blaze showed the fire concentrated around the front of the house. Drone footage online showed flames later spreading throughout the house.
The calls came in at 11:47 a.m., according to McCann. Middle Township EMS was, again, on scene to provide any necessary medical aid; however, no injuries were reported.
Neighbors and bystanders expressed relief that no one was hurt.
A neighbor told the Herald he was returning home when he saw the smoke shortly after noon.
“That thing engulfed that structure within minutes. It was incredible how fast that spread,” the man said.
The scene near Shell Bay Avenue was placed under control in about 45 minutes.
Again, the roof collapse meant several hours of work. Firefighters cleared the scene just before 3 p.m.
Drivers along Route 9 had to follow a detour for several hours.
“That’s why Route 9 was closed,” McCann confirmed, adding that firefighters needed space to supply water to the scene and operate on the home.
The home is located just two lots from Billy Bob’s Car Wash on Route 9.
McCann said that firefighters from Stone Harbor, Swainton, Rio Grande, Green Creek, and Goshen assisted.
“I called out three other companies for tankers, but I recalled them. They never made it to the scene,” said McCann.
Responding units were able to place the fire under control before they needed additional help.
“We would like to extend our sympathy to the families who have lost so much in the fires over the past several days,” Middle Township Ambulance Corps wrote on Facebook. “We also want to say thank you to our firefighters, without whom things would have been so much worse.”
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