MIDDLETOWN, NJ – At the monthly Township Committee meeting held on December 15, 2014 a number of Middletown Township volunteer firefighters were recognized for their recent heroic rescue of a victim from a burning house. The Township Committee, along with the Township Fire Chiefs, commended Captain Jack Hueston, Captain John Waltz, and Firefighter Christian Burbank for eluding a rapidly spreading blaze and removing an unconscious man from a bedroom at 500 Ocean Avenue, Leonardo on November 14th, 2014. Also honored were Chief Michael Chenoweth, Firefighter Matt Deickmann and Firefighter James Phillips for assisting with the removal of the victim through an outside window. Detailed Incident Report: At 2:42 PM on Friday November 14th, 2014, the Middletown Township Fire Department was dispatched to a “reported of a smoke condition in the area of the mud flats” in the Leonardo section of the Township. Approximately 75 firefighters from 7 companies of the Middletown Township Fire Department (Community, Brevent Park, Belford Engine, Navesink, Belford Independent, Port Monmouth, and East Keansburg Fire Companies), under the command of Department Chief Peter Laimann, responded to the scene.

First to arrive on the scene was Middletown Township Fire Official Art Revel who immediately alerted dispatch via radio that there was a fully involved structure fire at 500 Ocean Boulevard. Ex-Chief Andy Spears assumed command of the incident and requested the dispatch of additional fire companies. While performing a 360 degree survey of the exterior of the two and a half story single family residential structure, Chief Spears heard a voice calling out for help from the inside of the burning building. Unable to enter the house due to the heavy fire and smoke conditions, Chief Spears call to the victim to crawl to the rear door. The victim was unable to make his way to through the thick smoke which extended to about 6 inches above the floor and retreated away from the main body of the fire to a first floor bedroom. Repeated attempts to communicate with the victim were unsuccessful.

Engine 143 from the Community Fire Company arrived and quickly deployed a 2 ½ hand and began to attack the fire. Local residents assisted the firefighters with connecting a 5 inch supply line to a hydrant 100 feet away. A second crew from the Community Fire Company led by Ex-Captain Jack Hueston immediately began attempts to enter the building. The rescue team was unable to enter the front or rear doors due to extremely heavy fire conditions. After observing the victim through a side window Ex-Captain John Waltz and Firefighter Christian Burbank deployed a ladder and followed Captain Hueston through the window and into the burning building.

Members of the Belford Engine Fire Company led by Ex-Chief Michael Chenoweth arrived on the scene and immediately made contact with the rescue team that had located the unconscious victim. With the assistance of Firefighters Matt Dieckmann and Jim Phillips, Chief Chenoweth coordinated with the rescue team to extract the victim through the window. The Belford Engine crew immediately administered first aid to the victim until he was transferred to the emergency medical team.

Captain Hueston’s team completed a search of the interior room and exited the building. Fearing a catastrophic collapse of the fully engulfed building, Chief Laimann ordered all firefighters from the structure and directed an exterior attack of the fire. Chief Laimann declared the fire under control by 4:08 PM. The last units left the scene by 6:10 PM.


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The house sustained severe fire damage throughout and was declared uninhabitable.

After the fire, Chief Laimann recognized valor exhibited by Captain Hueston, Captain Waltz, and Firefighter Burbank in their extraordinary efforts to rescue the victim. Chief Laimann also commended Chief Chenoweth, Firefighter Deickmann, and Firefighter Phillips for their skills and professionalism in assisting with the prompt removal of the victim from the burning house.

Also assisting on the scene were members of the Middletown Township Emergency Medical Services units.
There were no reported first responder’s injuries during the incident.

The fire is being investigated by the Middletown Township Fire Prevention office, the Monmouth County Fire Marshal, and the Monmouth County Prosecutors office.

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Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...