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Thick Smoke in Nursing Home Traced to Battery Malfunction

Third-floor Pine Acres residents were relocated around 1 a.m. Thursday.

Thick, black smoke filled a third-floor rehabilitation room at Pine Acres Nursing Home on Madison Avenue in Madison shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday, and residents on the floor were moved to an area behind a fire door while firefighters identified the source, Madison's fire chief said.

Using a thermal imaging camera, firefighters traced the source of the smoke to a malfunctioning auxiliary battery pack fixed under the tabletop of a cart used for computers, Fire Chief Lou DeRosa said.

About six residents, mainly in beds and wheelchairs, were moved to the safe area while fire departments from Florham Park, Chatham, Morris Township, Morristown and Cedar Knolls were called to assist in case officials decided to evacuate the 102-bed building, which DeRosa said is labor intensive, but did not turn out to be necessary, partly because of the building's fire doors.

Staff and police responded to assist in moving the third-floor residents, and the Madison Volunteer Ambulance Corps responded to the scene with two ambulances.

Madison firefighters initially were alerted by an automatic fire alarm, and then received reports confirming there was smoke.

DeRosa said the alarms and building design helped the situation.

"Everything worked the way it was supposed to," he said.

Firefighters ventilated the building and cleared the area by around 2:15 a.m. The smoke left residue in the room. No injuries were reported.

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