North Caldwell Police Sgt Karl Strodthoff Prevents Tragedy at Large Fairfield House Fire Monday Morning, May 23
by Carolyne Volpe Curley / Carolyne@WestEssexNOW.com
FAIRFIELD, NJ - Monday morning, at about 9:51am, the Fairfield Fire Department responded with Fairfield Police to a home on Ralph Drive on reports of an active fire; they arrived there after having been notified by neighbors of the flames shooting from the home. It happened that the three occupants at the house were completely unaware of the fire which was already beginning to burn out of control.
North Caldwell Police Sgt Karl Strodthoff, off-duty at the time, was traveling through the neighborhood and quickly began knocking on the door of the residence to alert the occupants; all of those inside escaped the blaze with no injuries.
When first responders arrived at the scene, they witnessed a fully-engulfed fire coming from the garage and roof area. Soon after, the West Caldwell, North Caldwell and Verona fire departments responded with mutual aid, and the West Essex First Aid Squad stood by at the scene.
“These residents were unaware of the fire that was consuming their house
By 10:20am, all firefighters inside the home were evacuated from the structure while the roof began collapsing into the home.
Caldwell, Cedar Grove and Pine Brook firefighters provided coverage at Fairfield's firehouses, and the Verona Rescue Squad provided house coverage for WEFAS.
The fire was under control by 11:30am.
Fairfield Police Chief Anthony Manna released the following statement:
On May 23, 2016, at approximately 9:56am, the Fairfield Police Department received multiple 911 calls reporting house fire at 11 Ralph Drive.
Tragic Early Morning Fells Road House Fire Leads to the Death of Michelle L. Meoli, 60, of Essex Fells
UPDATED 3:42pm Monday
ESSEX FELLS, NJ - Chief Assistant Prosecutor Thomas S. Fennelly has confirmed that there has been a fatality due to the fire at 68 Fells Road which took place early this morning. Michelle L. Meoli, 60, was found at the rear of the residence, removed to outside and, after CPR was administered by first responders, she was then transferred to Mountainside Hospital and pronounced dead at 4:06am.
Fennelly stated the victim appeared to be the only person residing at the house. Essex Fells Police Chief Vincent Kulik announced that authorities are continuing to investigate the tragic event and it does not appear to be suspicious at this time. The cause and manner of the death are still pending autopsy results.
"Essex Fells lost one of her residents last night due to a terrible house fire;
Early Sunday morning, the Essex Fells Fire Department reported to the scene of a working house fire which was reported around 2:35am. The house was fully engulfed in flames and heavy smoke was also seen coming from the back windows.
By 3am, Caldwell, Roseland, Verona and West Caldwell were called in for mutual aid and the West Essex First Aid Squad reported to the scene.
At 3:04am, Livingston, Cedar Grove and Fairfield fire departments were called in to provide house coverage. West Orange reported for house coverage as well.
By 3:10am, the gas had been cut to the structure but the electric still had not.
At 3:18am, Verona First Aid also reported at the scene. North Caldwell Fire and Police were called in for mutual aid at 3:34am.
One hour in, and the scene remained a working structure fire.
At 4:07am, reports came in that a portion of one side of the structure had collapsed.
From 4:20am to 4:30am, firefighters were asking for "more pressure" for their pumps and crews were assisting with that issue.
4:40am, the firefighters continued to work on two hot spots in moderate smoke conditions on the one side of the structure.
At 5am, the fire was out. One firefighter was taken to the hospital for treatment; the department wished to keep his name anonymous.
By 5:24am, most of the assisting departments were leaving the scene, Essex Fells stayed on for further investigation and response if necessary.
The Essex County Prosecutor's Office, by 6am, had closed off the area entirely for further investigation. Arson investigators were at the scene. Fells Road remained closed between Stocker Road and Verona.
Essex Fells Fire Department left the scene at 9:46am. Police opened the road at 11:15am.
"Sad events like this remind us how precious and fragile life is," Abbot added. "Please check and replace the batteries in your smoke detectors regularly.