Fire destroys house in Basking Ridge


Fire destroys house in Basking Ridge

By W. JACOB PERRY Staff Writer | Posted: Friday, March 6, 2015 8:50 pm

BERNARDS TWP. – A fire destroyed a million dollar Basking Ridge home near William Annin Middle School despite a response by numerous fire companies in sub-freezing temperatures on Thursday night, March 5.

The residents of the 221 Woods End home were alerted by smoke detectors when the fire started at about 10 p.m. They were able to escape unharmed along with the family dog, according to police.

The fire, which was extinguished “several hours later,” appeared to have started in the laundry area of the home and quickly spread to the rest of the structure, police said.  Police said the home sustained “substantial damage.”

The cause remains under investigation but is not considered suspicious, police said.

The house is owned by Sharif and Stacey Mahdavian who were home with their daughter, 14, and two sons, 11 and 9, according to Township Fire Official Janet Lake.

Smoke detectors apparently led a fire security firm to place an immediate 911 call while the family was getting out of the house, she said.

“They received the quickest response they could have,” Lake said.

Township police and the Liberty Corner Fire Company were the initial responders.  Local roads had just been plowed after a storm  dropped about six inches of snow and sleet earlier that afternoon. Temperatures were reportedly below 15 degrees.

“The response was very good but the weather conditions made it very difficult – not only the temperatures but the wind,” said Liberty Corner Fire Chief Peter Aprahamian.  “There were significant ice conditions on the driveway and roadways, which made it difficult for fire operations.”

Aprahamian said that within a minute of his arrival, the fire spread to the home’s front side and vented through the front and rear.  Before long, there was “heavy fire throughout the structure,” he said.

Aerial ladder trucks from Liberty Corner and the Lyons Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center were used to fight the blaze from above the roof line, which Aprahamian said was helpful since firefighters were unable to enter the structure.

Firefighters were able to knock down the blaze by about 11 p.m. and fully extinguish it by around 12:30 a.m. They remained on the scene until 1:30 or 2 a.m., he said.

Probe Ongoing

Lake said that while the fire started in a laundry room area to the right of the front door, the cause had not been determined as of Friday afternoon.

She said she had not gone throughout the structure because much of it was unstable.

The first floor ceiling collapsed near the main staircase, Lake noted.  She said probably 85 to 90 percent of the house needs to be rebuilt, and a probe into the fire will require an excavation.

The two-story house, built in the 1980s as part of the Prince Edward Pointe development, was assessed this year at $1,136,000, according to the Township Tax Assessor’s Office.

Lake said neighbors “have just been tremendous” to the Mahdavian family, who will need to stay elsewhere.  She said Mr.  Mahdavian told her that he was overwhelmed by their generosity.

Responding to the scene, in addition to police and the Liberty Corner and Lyons VA fire departments, were the Liberty Corner First Aid Squad, the Basking Ridge Fire Company and First Aid Squad, the Bernardsville Fire Company and First Aid Squad, the Stirling Fire Department, the Green Knoll First Aid Squad, the township and Somerset County offices of emergency management, and members of the township public works department.

About 55 firefighters were involved, according to Aprahamian.  He expressed gratitude to all the responding agencies for “a well-coordinated effort.”

“This is also a good time to remind residents to clear out the fire hydrants when  they become snow-covered,” the chief added.

He noted that police had to shovel out the nearest hydrant, although he did not view that as significantly impairing the firefighting response.