Fire ‘recall’ time questioned at council meeting

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OCEAN CITY — Circumstances surrounding a quick moving fire that destroyed a single family home and caused severe damage to a neighboring duplex in the 3500 block of West Avenue became a topic of discussion during public comment at the Feb. 23 City Council meeting.

Resident Michael Hinchman questioned a possible delay between the initial report of the Jan. 18 fire – 6:18 p.m. according to acting Chief Charles Bowman – and the timing of a second alarm, which Hinchman said occurred an hour and 10 minutes later.

Hinchman suggested that “smart people” in the business world ask questions and look at issues in forensic terms when something goes wrong.

Based on comments from Bowman on Jan. 18 a few hours after the fire started, The Gazette reported that “soon after he (Bowman) arrived on the scene, he put in a ‘recall’” asking for help from the Sixth Street fire station. The effort brought an additional 11 firefighters to assist the first 11 who responded to the initial call.

Hinchman said he read in a “published report” that the second alarm was delayed, costing overtime for 26 firefighters.

“It was a very small house,” he said. “I don’t know, I don’t fight fires … but I ask the question out loud in the interest of finding out what happened.

“I wasn’t on the scene,” Hinchman said. “But an hour and 10 minutes, why did it spread? Go look at it. I’m not a professional firefighter, neither are you.”

In his initial comments to The Gazette, Bowman said the fire at a single family home at 3536 West Avenue was reported at 6:18 p.m. It is believed that passers-by smelled smoke and called 911. Bowman arrived on the scene with fire engines and firefighters from the city’s 29th Street and 46th Street firehouses.

Firefighters started working on the fire, but Bowman said the fire “busted through windows” on the north side of the building, igniting the duplex next door at 3532 West Avenue.

“The southern wall of the duplex was on fire,” he said. “The fire ran up the side of the building … and spread very quickly through the roof.

“The fire got into the eaves of the duplex,” he said.

Vinyl siding on the side of the building melted from the heat.

Bowman said wind was not a factor in the blaze, which he said spread “very quickly.”

“There was a lot of fire-load in the initial structure,” he said. “It was an older building, small with a lot of debris. The fire moved very fast within the initial structure.”

A call for mutual aid brought firefighters from Somers Point and Marmora to man the city’s three firehouses while Ocean City firefighters battled the blaze.

Asked about the delay on Friday, Feb. 24, business Administrator Michael Dattilo said the “recall” came seven minutes after the fire was reported, not one hour and 10 minutes as was reported during public comment by Hinchman.
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