Fire destroys abandoned house

31 07 2008

Passaic N.J. –A three-alarm fire demolished a vacant home in a sleepy neighborhood atop a steep hill in the city of Passaic.

Authorities and the owner of the house at 483 Harrison St., Barry Fredson, blamed the blaze on vagrants who had been squatting inside it since its last tenants left 10 months ago.

While the home had been boarded up, vagrants repeatedly broke in through the three-story building’s rear windows. Firefighters found scraps of food, empty liquor bottles and homemade ladders believed to have been used to sneak into the house.

The alleged squatters were nowhere in sight when firefighters arrived about 2:40 a.m. Wednesday to find the house fully ablaze, said Passaic fire Chief Patrick Trentacost.

And while there were no reported injuries, firefighters still struggled to contain the fire with low water pressure. Because of the elevation of the house, firefighters were forced to stretch hose lines several blocks to reach hydrants with sufficient pressure, he said.

“The water pressure was just horrible,” he said.

Part of the house collapsed during the fire, Trentacost said, leaving firefighters with no other option but to battle the blaze from the outside.

The fire was under control by about 4:50 a.m., although the house continued to smolder throughout the day. The Fire Department ordered a backhoe to demolish part of the house so that firefighters on scene could hose down any hot spots that they could not reach from the outside.

Fredson, the home’s owner, had drawn up plans to redevelop the property into condominiums, but has not yet presented a proposal to the city’s building commission.