HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — Fire investigators continue to probe the cause of a fire in Hamilton Township that destroyed one house and damaged three others Tuesday afternoon in the township’s Fairways at Mays Landing neighborhood.

Township police Detective Michael Robinson, who is investigating the fire on Pebble Beach Drive, said Wednesday that he could not comment on the fire’s cause.

A dog rescued by firefighters was taken to a veterinarian, who treated it and returned it to its owners, Robinson said. There were no other injuries.

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At the scene Wednesday, insurance adjusters with clipboards reviewed the destruction, which was cordoned off by yellow caution tape.

The Fairways is technically a mobile home development, said Phil Sartorio, Hamilton Township’s community development director. Property records indicate the 93-acre tract is owned by Hometown Mays Landing MHC LLC of Chicago, which leases the sites to the residents.

Curtis Crouse, community general manager for the Fairways, did not respond to requests for comment.

Nearby resident Carol Choma reported hearing an explosion about 2:15 p.m. Tuesday, rushing outside and finding a shed on fire behind 293 Pebble Beach Drive. The fire quickly spread to the home at 294, she said, and then she told The Press of Atlantic City that a car parked between the homes “exploded.”

On Wednesday, the house at 294 Pebble Beach was reduced to charred timbers, surrounded by blackened grass. The trees behind the home could be seen through the wreckage. A tree adjacent to the house had its leaves nearest to the building burned off.

It was not clear who was living in the houses when they burned.

Telephone records indicate that Richard J. Keys, 69, had moved to 294 within the past year from Elkins Park, Pa., just north of Philadelphia. Keys could not be reached.

At 293 Pebble Beach, Ted Henderson said he moved to the house in May 2003 and described other residents as “good neighbors.” His son, also named Ted, had been home asleep at the time of the fire, he said.

He said he was in Atlantic City when he learned about the fire. He pointed to the metal shell of a car in the driveway between the houses. That had been his 2000 Saturn LS1 with 102,000 miles on it, he said.

His home had blue tarps tacked to the side of the building and roof covering the fire damage. He and his family were staying in a nearby hotel on English Creek Avenue in Egg Harbor Township.

The fire’s intense heat also melted the vinyl siding off 295 Pebble Beach and damaged the siding and roof at 292.

Firefighters at the scene exhausted water supplies and had to call in tanker trucks, ultimately delaying the fire response, Cologne Fire Chief Shawn Vallauri said. The hydrants at the scene were operable, he said, but the crews used practically all of the available water out of fear the strong fire could spread in the blustery winds.

Pebble Beach Drive is a served by an 8-inch water main, said Stephen R. Blankenship, executive director of the Hamilton Township Municipal Utilities Authority. It is fed by a 12-inch water main under Cates Avenue. He said both are typical sizes.

When the MUA learned of the fire, Blankenship said it checked and saw it had a “normal” amount of water available. As crews fought the fire, the water level dropped “a little,” and a well came on line to support it.

Contact Derek Harper:


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