A cracked fireplace is the apparent cause of house fire that , leaving a West Caldwell family of five without a place to live for several months.
Homeowner Sheila Stark said a fire had been burning in the living room fireplace for about 14 hours Sunday to provide heat for the home at 84 Smull Ave., which along with most of the Caldwells was without power after .
The fire, which was deemed accidental, started due to a crack in the lit fireplace, according to West Caldwell Fire Chief Charles Holden.
The family had just finished playing a board game in a back room when around 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 30 they came to the front of the house and discovered the fire. They were able to get outside quickly and call for help, Stark explained from her front porch Tuesday morning.
The West Caldwell Fire Department responded to the scene and brought the fire under control within 30 minutes. West Caldwell was assisted by Caldwell and Verona fire departments. West Caldwell and Caldwell police along with the West Essex First Aid Squad also responded to the scene.
Frazzled from the experience and wearing gloves black with soot, Stark was busy Tuesday taking garbage bags filled with clothes out of the house to get washed. She said they have been staying with neighbors and are looking for a rental property where the family could live until the damage is repaired. She said it could be as many as eight months until they are back in the home.
The fire primarily damaged the front living room and an adjacent side office, but smoke and water caused damage throughout the first floor. All the windows
in the front of the side-hall colonial were boarded up.
Stark lives in the home with her husband and their three children, a 20-year-old son who attends Montclair State University, an 18-year-old daughter and a son who will turn 14 on Sunday.
The family’s two pet hamsters were in the first floor office and did not survive the fire.