The . and Emergency Medical Services unit, with back-up, brought down an intensely heated fire burning under insulation inside a Salvation Army disaster relief van on Route 287 North in Basking Ridge on Saturday morning.
Warned before they arrived, the firefighters and emergency workers had to remove 20-pound propane tanks that were part of the van's equipment before they could fully tackle the fire. Until the propane could be removed, state police closed off all lanes of the highway for about an hour near milepost 29, right before exit 30 into Basking Ridge, said Jack McGrath, public information officer for the Basking Ridge Fire Company.
Cause not determined Monday before noon
The exact cause of the fire had not been determined as of Monday, McGrath said shortly before noon on that day.
Crews arrived on the scene at 7 a.m. on Saturday, and immediately attacked the fire and also cooled the propane tanks and removed them from the burning vehicle, McGrath said.
The Salvation Army vehicle fire also brough out a response from additional Basking Ridge Fire station units, including Basking Ridge Engine 105 and Rehab Unit 153, McGrath said. Firefighters not only battled flames and the intense heat in the fire, but also 90-plus degree temperatures that the area experienced over the weekend, he noted.
No injuries took place, McGrath said.
The vehicle, equipped by the Salvation Army to provide disaster relief out in the field, had a stove and steam table aboard. The fire was burning under the stainless steel stove, creating intense heat and smoke from the insulation burning under the stainless steel, McGrath said. The firefighters had to use cutters to get through the stainless steel to access the burning insulation, McGrath said.
"It was a prolonged operation," McGrath said on Monday. The situation took about two hours to bring under control, he said. The dispatcher had reported that the Step Van already was fully engulfed in flames by the time the fire was called in, he said.
Police did open a few lanes of traffic heading north after the propane was removed from the scene and the firefighting operation was consolidated, McGrath explained. Traffic had backed up about a mile while the highway was blocked off at accident scene, he said.
Basking Ridge Engine 20-103 was first to respond under the direction of Captain Peter von der Linde, McGrath said. Assistant Chief Nick Ierubino was on scene and established incident command. Ierubino ordered Engine 103 to initiate a direct attack, and requested a 2nd alarm transmitted to bring in the additional engine from Basking Ridge, a rescue unit from Liberty Corner and additional back up from the station in Bernardsville.
Support for firefighters at the scene was provided by Squad 20 EMS, while crews were rotated in battling the fire. The all-volunteer fire and rescue units were released by the incident command chief at about 9:45 a.m., McGrath reported.
State police confirmed on Monday that the fire had taken place on the northbound highway at that time, but did not have additional details.