Westfield Fire Victims Begin to Reclaim Their Lives
Burn victim Roy Rentrop expected to survive injuries, while neighbors sift through their charred belongings.
The burn victim from the four-alarm fire at the Hamilton House Apartments remains in critical condition as residents begin to pick up the pieces from the early Monday morning blaze.
Roy Rentrop, the resident of the apartment where the fire originated, was transported by MediVac helicopter to St. Barnabas Hospital around 12:30 a.m. on Monday with severe facial burns and smoke inhalation. Rentrop, who apartment complex residents say was found unconscious on his living room floor, remains in the burn intensive care unit at the hospital. Witnesses say he was having trouble breathing when he was taken from the building by firefighters.
Patch has learned that Rentrop will likely survive his injuries.
Rentrop had lived in the apartment for roughly a month, after selling his Wychwood home. Rentrop, who worked in the financial services industry and a member of the Echo Lake Country Club, is a widower with one daughter.
The four-alarm fire started around 11:30 p.m. on Sunday evening in Rentrop’s apartment, quickly spreading the remainder of the building. Twelve fire companies responded to scene and the blaze was out by 3 a.m.
Apartment complex residents remained stunned Monday afternoon, as they began to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the fire. Alexandra Capaldo, property manager of the complex, said the first insurance adjusters arrived on the scene at 6:30 a.m. and have been monitoring the property since. Capaldo spent most of the afternoon with construction companies, who were trying to secure the building, which suffered structural damage in the fire.
The decorative chimney of the building, which was seen leaning after the roof caved in, was torn off the building shortly after 4 p.m.
The residents of the apartment across the hall from Rentrop, who were left homeless in the blaze, had brief access to their apartment to retrieve some personal possessions on Monday morning.
“It’s a nightmare in there,” said Judy, who declined to give her last name.
Judy said she and her husband, Dean, who have a seven-year-old daughter, were able to salvage clothes, her daughter’s piggy bank and framed family photo and other items. She said among the items destroyed were her daughter’s toys and books, along with golf clubs, furniture and patio chairs.
“I understand that it is only material things. At the same time it did mean something to us,” she said. “It is kind of sad. Little things I bought with my daughter or my husband and I bought for her. It is not just a thing; there is something behind it. She has a Minnie Mouse with pom poms that she picked out at Disney. It was the first thing she picked out on her own.”
Judy, who has lived in the complex for five years, did say that the family’s photo albums survived the blaze. She said these contain a lot of photos from when she and her husband started dating and that she saved many photos of their daughter, which were protected by the online photo-sharing sites she uses.
Judy said that she was woke up around 11:30 p.m. when she heard fire alarms going off in the building. She opened the front door of her family's apartment and looked into the common hallway her family shared with Rentrop.
“There was no fire to be seen. That is why I was so surprised to go around back and see the flames shooting out of the window,” she said. “We did not know how bad it was. We just missed it by the skin of our teeth.”
The family stayed at the Holiday Inn on Route 22 in Springfield the night of the fire but is moving into an empty apartment on the other side of the complex. She said she and her husband had been house hunting in town and will likely speed up the search.
The status of residents who lived in the first floor of the destroyed building is not known. Residents in the building connected to the firewall to the destroyed building were allowed in Monday to pick up belongings. Residents reported that the two apartments closest to the fire had sustained severe water damage. The two farthest from the fire were impacted by the smoke and smell of the fire. Residents in this building said they were not allowed to move back in, due to potential structural issues, and some said they may not move back in due to the smell.
Residents, huddling in small groups in the complex’ courtyard said that Rentrop was a pleasant individual, who helped out his neighbors. Judy noted the complex’ friendly nature had come through since the fire.
“That’s the wonderful thing here, it is a community,” she said. “Everyone helps everyone out.”
Judy said she and her family are trying to keep the fire and loss of property in perspective.
“We’re lucky we’re alive,” she said.