HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — A cigarette caused a quickly moving fire last week in the Fairways at Mays Landing development, Hamilton Township police said Tuesday, ruling the blaze accidental.
The April 29 fire started at 293 Pebble Beach Drive in the Fairways development, police said, and spread in the strong winds. It destroyed a home, shed and car, while also damaging three other homes.
The home where police said the fire started was where Ted Henderson Sr. lived. Henderson told The Press of Atlantic City last week that during the fire he was in Atlantic City and his son, also named Ted, had been in the home asleep.
Neither man could be reached Tuesday.
Henderson’s residence sustained serious damage to the roof and walls, while leaving little but blackened timbers of a neighboring home. Telephone records indicated that Richard J. Keys, 69, had moved within the past year from Elkins Park, Pa., to that home at 294 Pebble Beach Drive. Keys could not be reached for comment.
Other homes at 292 and 295 also sustained damage to their walls.
Water issues continue to concern residents. The first firefighters on the scene apparently exhausted local water supplies and had to call in tanker trucks, said Shawn Vallauri, the Cologne Volunteer Fire Company chief.
Vallauri on Tuesday said the hydrants initially had plenty of water pressure. Pressure fell, he said, then rose and then fell. He called in tanker trucks, he said, because he could not risk losing pressure while high winds stoked the fire.
Residents questioned township officials at Monday’s township meeting. Michael Choma, who lives across Pebble Beach Drive from the fire, told officials he witnessed fire crews find two dry hydrants and a third with just partial pressure.
Mayor Roger Silva said Stephen R. Blankenship, executive director of the Hamilton Township Municipal Utilities Authority, met with Curtis Crouse, Fairways community general manager, and recommended Fairways test the valves to find out what problems they may have.
Blankenship said that Fairways operated a private water system and was responsible for the water main and hydrants starting at the Cates Avenue intersection. The MUA had plenty of water in the system throughout the fire.
Crouse disputed that, saying the community was only responsible for the hydrants, and that it had already tested and flushed the hydrants the week before the fire. He said he was “a little perplexed” by the statements the hydrants did not work, saying, “They have been working fine.”
“They (Hamilton Township) know we flushed out the system,” Crouse said. “They were there.”
Blankenship said the MUA notifies private water system operators before one of its twice-yearly hydrant flushing, but was not aware of any MUA staff on-hand for Fairways hydrant-flushing.
Fairways at Mays Landing was built in the late 1990s and real estate records show Hometown Mays Landing MHC LLC bought the 465-site age-restricted development in November 2012 for $13.5 million. The company is an affiliate of Hometown America LLC, a real estate firm based in Chicago that owns more than 40 communities in 10 states.
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