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12 Fire Departments Provide Mutual Aid for Major Fire in Maplewood

Early morning fire at the Avalon apartments in Maplewood. Credits: Carl Patterson
Early morning fire at the Avalon apartments in Maplewood. Credits: Carl Patterson
L to R: Frank McGehee, Maplewood Township Committee, Michael Dingelstedt, Maplewood Fire Chief, Mayor Vic De Luca, and India Larrier, Maplewood Township Commitee, at press conference Sat. morning.
L to R: Maplewood Mayor Vic Deluca, Michael Dingelstedt, Maplewood Fire Chief, and India Larrier, Maplewood Township Commitee, at press conference Sat. morning.
Credits: Carl Patterson
Credits: Carl Patterson
Avalon construction in November, 2016.

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - A major fire erupted early Saturday morning at the Avalon apartment complex located at 200 Boyden Ave. in Maplewood. Overnight, approximately 130 firefighters responded to the scene, with fire companies from Livingston, West Orange, Fairfield, South Orange, Millburn, Montclair, Bloomfield, Union, Jersey City, East Orange, Nutley and Belleville providing mutual aid.

The fire started at about 1:30 a.m., and was under control by about 6 a.m., according to Maplewood Mayor Vic De Luca. There was extensive mutual aid at the scene of the fire.

The fire resulted in the full collapse of the left side of one of the Avalon apartment buildings, which fell on to the NJ Transit parking garage, according to the Breaking News Network (BNN). 

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The Avalon apartment complex consists of three buildings - one building where construction has been completed, and two buildings which are still under construction.

Maplewood Mayor Vic De Luca and Maplewood Fire Chief Michael Dingelstedt held a press conference at 8 a.m. at the fire station on Boyden Ave. De Lua stated that the cause of the fire is unknown at this time.

The fire destroyed the unfinished portion of the Avalon apartment complex. The front building, where construction was completed, appears to have survived the fire, but town officials stated that the building will need to be inspected to confirm it's structurally sound.

Dingelstedt stated that when the first unit from the fire department arrived on the scene at about 1:30 a.m., the building was "heavily engulfed," and he issued a third alarm, which requests three-times the usual amount of mutual aid.

At the press conference De Luca and Dingelstedt both commented that the Maplewood Avalon construction was built using a higher fire safety standard, including more sprinklers, than the Avalon project in Edgewater which had a major fire January of 2015 which destroyed 240 of the 408 units, and displaced over 1,000 people - 500 who were living in the apartments and another 500 from nearby homes which were affected by the fire.

The fire was under control by around 6 a.m., but the fire department was still continuing to pump water as of 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. At 10 a.m. ,fire companies were still "hitting hot spots and hidden pockets of fire under collapsed sections," with one tower ladder in operation, according to BNN. 

The nearby Wawa on Springfield Ave. has been providing free coffee to all firefighters at the scene of the fire.

There was one injury reported, a firefighter from Maplewood slipped and fell on ice, and went to the hospital for evaluation.

Essex County investigators were at the scene of the fire early Saturday morning, and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Avalon had no statement as of 10 a.m. on Saturday, with a company spokesperson stating that they had no comment until they are granted accesses to the site by fire and Essex County officials and are able to examine and assess the situation.

The Avalon apartments in Maplewood are not yet occupied. An Open House was scheduled for Feb. 18 and Feb. 19, according to the Avalon website. Apartments are priced started at $1,785 for a studio, $1,880 for a one-bedroom, and $2,175 for a two-bedroom, according to the Avalon website. 

Tenants were scheduled to begin moving into the complex in about five weeks, and De Luca suggested that anyone who was planning to occupy an apartment in the complex should contact Avalon directly for an update.

According to the Maplewood Township website, the development had 235 market-rate rental units with an attached multi-level parking garage for residents.

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