A fire which occurred just after 4 a.m. on Saturday at a residence in Holiday City Berkeley has taken the life of the home’s male occupant, according to Ocean County authorities.
Chief Will Jubert of the Manitou Park Fire Department said that his squad was dispatched to a home located at 35 Biabou Drive at 4:19 a.m. today, where upon arrival, saw a structure fire in progress.
“There was heavy fire in the front of the home,” said Chief Jubert. “Our first engine launched an aggressive, defensive attack, but we were not able to gain access to the home.”
Jubert said that the fire was under control by 5:15 a.m.
Departments which responded to the scene in addition to Manitou Park were Toms River Fire Companies 1 and 2, Bayville Fire Company and Manchester Fire Company, according to Jubert.
“Also responding were the Berkeley Township Police Department, the Ocean County Fire Marshal’s Office and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office,” said Jubert.
Executive Assistant Prosecutor Michel A. Paulhus confirmed Saturday morning that the fire had claimed the life of an occupant in the home, but that the body was still in the process of being identified, and therefore, no next of kin for the deceased had been notified yet.
“We’re currently looking into the circumstances of the fire and the death of the occupant,” said Paulhus. “We’re in the very preliminary stages of our investigation, and it’s currently underway. There was a structure fire at that residence, and that’s all we can say right now.”
At the scene this morning, crews from the Ocean County Sheriff's Office and Ocean County Fire Marshal's Office were on hand investigating the blaze. The wood-frame home was completely gutted, from the main living quarters to the one-car garage, in which stood a burned-out Nissan automobile.
Neighbors on both sides of the residence commented on what they saw and heard this morning.
“I saw the whole thing,” said a neighbor, Ralph Bartolomeo. “It started about a quarter after four this morning, my wife and I were asleep.”
When alerted to the fire, Bartolomeo said that he ran outside and attempted to assist authorities by using his garden hose on the fire, but by then it was too late.
He added that his neighbor attemped to escape the fire, but couldn't make it out in time.
“Apparently, he had medical oxygen tanks inside the home, which blew up. We would see him doing work on the house every now and then, but he was private. He kept mostly to himself. It's a shame he passed away,” Bartolomeo added.
“The first thing I heard was a big bang,” said Fred Duserney, another neighbor. “Flames were shooting out of the sides of the house, it went up so damn fast. I called 911, as did another neighbor.”
Duserney said that wind carried some of the smoke to his residence and caused damage there, evident by the boarded-up windows on the left side of his home.
“It was blowing enough to bring some of the smoke this way,” Duserney described. “The windows and some siding were damaged, and some smoke got in my house. It's all closed up now.”
Duserney explained that the fire department got him out of his residence to safety across the street. Regarding his neighbor, Duserney said that the gentleman was “a private person”.
“We would see him outside when work was done on the house, trimming the tree or working in the garden. It's a shame,” said Duserney.