LONG BRANCH – More than 100 firefighters responded to a report of a fast-moving fire in the West End section of Long Branch on Monday. According to Assistant Long Branch Fire Chief Angelo Ciaglia, the fire was reported at approximately 10:30 a.m. After surveying the scene, Ciaglia said, he immediately called in a third alarm signaling that city firefighters needed assistance from surrounding towns to fight the blaze, which engulfed a block of stores and upstairs apartments along Brighton Avenue.
An hour and 20 minutes after the fire was reported, the front portion of one of the buildings collapsed into Brighton Avenue, causing firefighters to withdraw temporarily from the site of the collapse.The block of stores and apartments where the fire broke out reportedly shared a common basement and according to unconfirmed reports, the fire may have started in a portion of the basement underneath one of the stores. Firefighters from eleven towns were sent to assist Long Branch in fighting the fire.
The Long Branch Fire Department had, six engines and two ladder trucks on the scene. According to Ciaglia, efforts to bring the blaze under control were hampered by low water pressure.
. Firefighters were pumping 6000 gallons a minute and there was still not enough water to extinguish the blaze, Ciaglia said. “We don’t have the water to fight it.”
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Using specialized equipment, the Middletown Township Fire Dept. drew water from Lake Takanassee, which is approximately a half mile away, to fight the blaze.
Windy conditions also caused embers to ignite a portion of the roof of the nearby Wells Fargo Bank and caused two brush fires in the area..
The effort to “drown and surround” the fire continued through Monday afternoon and evening, with some on the scene predicting that it would be another day before the fire was entirely under control.
As of Monday afternoon, Ciaglia said, officials believed that everyone in the buildings escaped the blaze and all emergency personnel were accounted for.
The Red Cross set up an emergency shelter at a Senior Community Center on Second Ave. to aid residents of apartments in the area who were displaced by the fire.
The Red Cross was also on the scene distributing food and drinks to emergency workers and fire department personnel and the Windmill Restaurant on Ocean Ave. was providing free food and beverages to firefighters and emergency officials.