Authorities responded to reports of a structure fire at Acme Plaza in Wantage Township at 9:41 a.m., State Police Sgt. Jeffrey Flynn said. The fire started in a dry cleaning business in the Acme Plaza strip mall and it was deemed not suspicious.
There were no reported injuries, he said.
Video posted to social media showed flames and smoke shooting out of a Chinese restaurant, pizza shop and U.S. Postal Service store. There was minor smoke and water damage to a few buildings in the plaza, Flynn said.
The fire was put out by 10:30 a.m., but personnel remain on scene, Flynn said.
Multiple units responded, including the Sussex Fire Department, Lakeland Emergency Squad and Glenwood Pochuck Volunteer Ambulance Corps
The blaze, which was reported shortly after 1 p.m., spread quickly through the upper level of a home on Ruth Drive before being brought under control.
The home was unoccupied at the time the fire began, according to Wantage Fire Chief Justin Van Der Groef.
Firefighters were able to contain the blaze less than an hour later but remained on the scene for a significant period afterward to continue performing “overhaul,” which involves opening walls and ceilings to extinguish any remaining hot spots. The procedure is standard in structure fires and is done to ensure a blaze does not rekindle from any embers left in its wake.
A long line of fire trucks and ambulances crowded Haggerty Road above the property marked with a sign as the home of Paint Horse Breeders and Joe and Pat Luongo.
The fire was reported about 7 p.m., as members of the Wantage Fire Department were readying to swear in officers for 2017 at the Wantage Municipal Building, said fire department member and former chief Parker Space. The call came in and “the firemen jumped ship,” he said, and headed to the fire.
According to Space, he spoke briefly with the homeowner, who said he’d been home for about 10 minutes when the smoke alarm went off. The homeowner told Space he found fire in the vicinity of the garage.
The homeowner got out of the house, but the family’s dog may have perished in the fire, Space said.
Most of the departments in northern Sussex County responded to the fire. Firefighters arrived to find the house engulfed in flames.
The fire was still burning at 8 p.m., and had worked its way into the roof of the rambling colonial-style home. Space said shortly after 9 p.m. that the fire was out.
Water was drawn from the pond at High Point Regional High School and ferried by tanker trucks from several departments from Pidgeon Hill Road to enter the property off Haggerty Road.
Fire crews at the pump site had to cut through a sheet of ice to get to the water.
At the scene, firefighters used the aerial truck from the Sussex Fire Department to pour water down onto the burning house.
Three donkeys huddled in the adjacent fields as the water was poured onto the house and firefighters cut ventilation holes in the roof with power saws.
Members of the local ladies fire auxiliary brought coffee to the firefighters. County road crews responded to spread salt on the road to prevent any water that ran onto the road from freezing. Sussex Rural Electric also responded to the scene.
Several volunteer ambulance squads also stood by at the scene. The Sussex County fire marshal was also on scene, Space said.
The fire department officers to be sworn in Thursday included Space’s son, Hunter Space, who was to be sworn in as second lieutenant. The swearing-in ceremony will take place at a later date.
“We were just calling in to clear when the dispatcher said, ‘hold on, you got another call coming in,’ ” said Wantage Fire Department member Parker Space, who was driving the Wantage fire truck.
The call came in about noon. Within two minutes, the unit from the Beemerville fire station of the Wantage Fire Department, along with a truck from the Colesville station and a Sussex Borough unit, responded to the home on Layton Road and found a wagon near the home with construction debris burning inside it.
Space said the Wantage Fire Department stretched a 13/4-inch hose line from its truck and the Sussex truck hooked itself to his rig. The water stored on the two trucks was enough to put the fire out.
Of the 1,250 gallons of water used on the fire, 750 gallons came from the Wantage (Beemerville) truck and 500 were from the Sussex unit.
“We had other trucks on standby in case we needed them, but the fire was under control pretty quickly,” he said.
Wantage Fire Chief Larry Bono Jr., described the work as “a good stop,” and said there was no fire damage to the end of the house although the heat from the trailer did melt some of the vinyl siding. He said fire units were on the scene on Layton Road for just over a half-hour.
The earlier call was at Tractor Supply, which was evacuated because of the smell of propane inside the store.
The smell apparently came from an empty tank outside.
There was no leak and after a couple of hours, the all clear was given and the store reopened.
The fire was reported shortly before 11 a.m., and caused heavy damage, according to the Sussex Fire Department.
Units from the Sussex and Wantage fire departments were on hand, as well as the Sussex Fire Department EMS. Units from Vernon, Pochuck Valley and Hamburg also responded.