Officials from the Middlesex County Arson Unit of the Prosecutor's Office are investigating a fire in the Menlo Park Terrace section of today that claimed the lives of a firefighter and a man in the home.
Former Hopelawn Fire Company Chief Bruce Turcotte, 58, was found collapsed inside the cab of a fire truck he had driven to the scene of the fire at 33 Jefferson Street. Turcotte was heading a rapid intervention unit to be first on the scene to prepare in fighting the blaze, according to a statement released by the current chief, Michael Walsh.
Turcotte was seen stretching fire hoses from the pumper in front of the house so firefighters could move into place to fight the fire around 1:30 pm, Walsh said. A short time later, Turcotte was found unconscious inside the fire truck.
and firefighters worked feverishly to revive Turcotte, without success. He was transported down the street to John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, where he was pronounced dead.
Another victim of the fire, a man who apparently resided at the house, also died, Hagerty said. He did not have a name or age of the victim, whose body was found in the basement of the house.
Neighbors around the house "had no idea" there was a fire until they heard the fire trucks. "We didn't see any fire. Just a lot of smoke," said one woman who lives just two doors down from the house on Jefferson St. "We heard all the fire engines and ambulances. That's how we knew."
Another neighbor, who didn't want to give his name, said he didn't know who lived there, but he believed that the house had belonged to someone who had died, and that her brother now lived there.
The Jefferson Street house is listed as belong to the estate of Barbara Ness-Kerrigan, who died in 2007. The house was briefly in foreclosure last year. Her brother, Robert Ness, is listed as residing at the house.
Fire companies from , Iselin, and Colonia had joined the Hopelawn squad on the scene, said Iselin Fire Company Chief A.J. Wertz.
The arson squad of the county prosecutor's office was in the basement, investigating the cause of the blaze. Wertz said that the arson investigator of the Iselin Fire Prevention Bureau was also delving into the cause.