Lighting Sources of Two Christmas Fires, Chief Says

Bernardsville blazes began with a candle and wires connected to outdoor lights

The Bernardsville Fire Co. was first responder to both fires in the borough on Christmas Day, including a blaze at a greenhouse with Christmas trees and wreaths with a Far Hills address, Bernardsville Fire Chief Randy Steinkopf said.

The fire at the Statile & Todd Landscaping Contractors, 540 Mine Brook Route (Route 202), appeared to have been started by lights connected by wires on a fence and in a seasonal greenhouse, Steinkopf said.

The fire was reported by a passerby at 12:39 a.m. on Tuesday, Steinkopf said. He said trees and wreaths were destroyed, along with part of a semi-permanent greenhouse on the property.

With no fire hydrants in the area, Steinkopf said multiple firefighting agencies responded to the scene, including the Far Hills-Bedminster Fire Department and the Liberty Corner Fire Co.'s rapid-intervention team.

He said no one was injured at that fire, or at a call for a burning holiday centerpiece later in the day that he said had apparently been lit on fire by a candle.

That fire had created so much smoke that the Bernardsville Fire Co.'s first aid squad also checked residents in the home for smoke inhalation symptoms, Bernardsville Police Chief Kevin Valentine said on Wednesday.

Valentine said borough police and the Bernardsville Fire Co. with first aid squad members all responded to the reported fire at 6:14 p.m. Tuesday at 19-3 Heritage Court.

Steinkopf said the fire company and police were notified through an alarm system when the fire detector went off. He said the fire began in the dining room, while the family was in the kitchen making dinner, and that it ignited sufficiently to issue smoke throughout the house and scorch the ceiling in the dining room.

The family in the house "did everything right," the fire chief said. Before leaving, the son shut all other doors, and the father had brought down the fire with a fire extinguisher as well as shutting off an exhaust fan in the kitchen that would have fed the flames, Steinkopf said.

The family then vacated the home as firefighters and first aid squad members were on the way, he said.


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