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One Injured in Four-Alarm Westfield Apartment Blaze

One victim listed in critical condition at St. Barnabas hospital, while 28-unit Westfield Hamilton House complex is evacuated.

A four-alarm fire broke out in the second floor of the two-story Westfield Hamilton House apartment complex just before midnight Sunday, leaving at least one man in critical condition at St. Barnabas Hospital and the occupants of seven other apartments homeless.

A MedEvac helicopter transported a male burn victim with "significant" facial burns and smoke inhalation. The victim was identified by witnesses as Roy Rentrop, whom residents say moved to the complex about a month ago, after selling his Wychwood home. He was transported to Saint Barnabas Medical Center, where he is listed in critical condition. The chopper landed and took off from a field near the Stop and Shop supermarket.

A neighbor who lives in the complex said Rentrop had been carried out of the building by firefighters and appeared to have difficulty breathing. The neighbor called 911 after smelling smoke coming from the building around 11:30 p.m.

As of 1:30 p.m. on Monday afternoon, Rentrop remained in critical condition in the burn intensive care unit at St. Barnabas. Rentrop, a widower, has one daughter and has previously worked in the financial services industry. He is a member of Echo Lake Country Club.

By midnight, six fire departments — Westfield, Mountainside, Scotch Plains, Springfield, Fanwood, Roselle Park and Cranford — had responded to the blaze. As of 1:30 Monday, flames continued to flicker above the roof line as two ladder trucks, one of which was from Roselle, continued to douse the building with water. Eventually, 12 departments answered the call. By 3 a.m., the flames had been extinguished, but crews kept dousing the section of the apartment complex that suffered the fire damage.

Westfield Fire Department Chief Daniel J. Kelly said the fire began in the section of the 28-unit complex that was built closest to Mountain Avenue and the Mountainside town line. Four of the units were destroyed by the fire. The other four in the cluster were protected by a firewall. They were evacuated pending further review to determine if there was any structural damage.

As firefighters were checking for clues on the start of the blaze, two investigators from the arson squad joined the hunt for the cause of the smoky blaze. Smoke from the fire was visible throughout Wychwood, as the smell of fire could be detected as far away as East Broad Street.

Kelly said that the arson team is always called in when a fire involves high-damage losses and/or civilian injuries. The cause of the fire is undetermined at this time.

According to another eyewitness, the fire appeared to start in one section of the U-shaped building, before engulfing the entire second floor. Virtually all of the roof also had collapsed by 2 a.m. Monday. A non-working chimney, which appeared to be a cosmetic addition to the building, was on the verge of toppling into the building after the roof gave way.

The affected building, one of six unconnected structures in the 28-apartment complex, is closest to Mountain Avenue, roughly 20 feet from the Mountainside border.

Alexandra Capaldo, manager of the apartment building, worked with the American Red Cross to get residents of the apartments emergency lodging in Hotel 304 West on Route 22 in Springfield. 

I_care_about_Westfield April 04, 2011 at 12:33 PM
No ladder truck to do search and rescue - due to manpower cuts
I_care_about_Westfield April 04, 2011 at 12:34 PM
and short 3 firefighters - due to manpower cuts
Gerald April 04, 2011 at 03:20 PM
Actually "Betty" I was thinking how great it is that we finally have a resource that provides the news in a timely, comprehensive and impartial manner. I'll forgive them the occasional glitch.
Lisa B April 04, 2011 at 03:56 PM
I agree with Gerald, what a great information source Patch is. Thanks all.
Betty Van Riper April 04, 2011 at 06:43 PM
Just trying to be helpful in future issues regarding proof reading "Gerald". And, Lisa, I think the Patch is a great information source, as well. I read it every day.
Please_Keep_Westfield_Safe April 04, 2011 at 07:11 PM
WFD: 6 firefighters on duty for the start of the incident -- first 5 minutes: Firefighter 1 - Incident Commander Officer Firefighter 2 - Hose Pump Operator at the Fire Engine - getting water to the hose Firefighter 3- Connects large hose to fire hydrant / Firefighter Safety Team Firefighter 4 - Firefighter Safety Team Firefighter 5 - Search and Rescue of people OR Fire Extinguishment - ONE not Both / Fire Officer Firefighter 6 - Search and Rescue of people OR Fire Extinguishment - ONE not both With low manpower - Westfield used to catch the fires small.. expect bigger fires in Westfield which destroys peoples lives and property.. and a big chances of life loss. Firefighters at 9 fighters (used to be in Westfield): Firefighter 1 - Incident Commander Officer Firefighter 2- - Hose Pump Operator at the Fire Engine - getting water to the hose Fireghter 3 - Connects large hose to fire hydrant / Firefighter Safety Team Firefighter 4 - Firefighter Safety Team Firefighter 5 - Search and Rescue of People and Pets/ Fire Officer Firefighter 6 - Search and Rescue of People and Pets Fireghter 7 - Quick Fire Extinguishment for smaller fires Firefighter 8 - Quick Fire Extinguishment for smaller fires Firefighter 9 - Opens up Windows/Roofs to let smoke out to prevent flashover - firefighter safety /smoke out to save people and pets
Wake up Westfield! April 05, 2011 at 12:40 AM
Those responsible for making financial decisions for the town of Westfield should be ashamed of themselves. It's more important to them that certain undeserving employees drive around in outrageously expensive, tax payer purchased, "Company Cars", than properly staff our fire department crews. What's it going to take, one of our guys losing their lives before someone wakes up! I guess those making these decisions aren't the ones running into these buildings so why would they care!
Cathy Mazza April 05, 2011 at 03:36 AM
The Westfield Firefighters already buried two of their brothers in less than a year. I pray to God this unforvievable situation of manpower cuts does not end with a loss of a firefighters life. The taxpayers of Westfield should know that the overall portion of the taxes they pay is a very small portion of their total bill. There are many other ways to cut the budget. Manpower is not one of them. God help those who have made these decisions if they lead to loss of life. Pay attention Westfield. When you see your homeowners insurance bill go up this is the reason.
Sally McBride April 05, 2011 at 07:57 PM
I agree with the above about coverage. Sounds like Westfield needs to consolidate with Crandford and/or Clark and/or Mountainside to get better coverage. We should start this process right away
Chris Love April 08, 2011 at 01:22 PM
Sally even though your suggestions about combining department like Clark and Mountainside they are vollenteer towns. Provinging services for these towns would be great if they were willing to "share" the expensices as well. The cost per house hold for a paid department is minimal for Westfiled residents, the diminished man power is affecting Westfield homeowners insurance dramaticly. Man power and quick responce time is a must when it comes to Life Saftey, not only with fire suppression but the fire departments increased involvement with EMS. The Westfield fire department responds to such towns like Fanwood/Scotch Plains, Clark, Garwood, and Mountainside already and many times is the first to arrive on scene. The diminished staffing at the Westfield fire department is a crime not only to the residents of Westfield, but to the members of the department as well. There are many ways the town can save money, reducing saffing that WILL cause residents harm/death, as well as employees, is and should not be one of them.
Sally McBride June 15, 2011 at 04:17 AM
So looks like we are already sharing, lets make it legal. Seems like Chris is suggesting that Westfield go to a volunteer fire department to make it happen. I agree with Chris, let's call it the "Chris Love Plan" and convert Westfield
Chris Love June 15, 2011 at 04:52 AM
Sorry Sally. Please do not twist my comments around. The Chris Love Plan"?!? Let's get serious. Re-read my previous comment and re-think yours. I hope your just being sarcastic with your above comments. If not, your ignorance to our growing problem with man power regarding our fire department is ridicules. Before commenting on such a serious topic such as public safety, you really should do a little research on the subject.
Sally McBride June 15, 2011 at 12:20 PM
another flip flopper? I love how people always think the current level is "too little". Certain people would complain there was not enough coverage if every house had their own fire station (of course someone else would pay). Chris and I do not see people dying in Clark and Mountainside with the volunteer systems they have there. Maybe Westfield should look into it too. Thanks Chris!!
Chris Love June 15, 2011 at 01:50 PM
Sally, your comments on this matter, and many others you have commented on, really need to researched before you post them. There are not only ignorant, but almost childness at best. Perhaps if you get out from behind your computer and and actually talk to people on this matter you might be more wery posting your thoughts. Fire department s do respond to each other towns when public safty is at risk, however, somebody ultimatly has to pay for it. Why would someone pay a plumber to work on their house, when your neibhor will do it for free. Who cares if the pipes leak, and the toliet won't flush........it was FREE. "Filp Flopper"???? No Sally. I don't think so. If you would like to further disscuss this i would be more than willing to reach out to you and shed a little light on this matter.
Chris Love June 15, 2011 at 01:51 PM
Also, if you actually think that, as you so intelligently put it in your last comment, that you "do not see people dying" in other towns is again ignorant. Westfield and the surrounding communities are great places to live, however, bad things happen sometimes and you need people that are ready, trained, and willing to fix and clean up whatever mess arises. Sally let me know if you would like some basic knowledge on this matter, cause to everyone who reads this its apparent that you need it. Maybe you should get on your little soap box and suggest that we have a vollenteer police deptarment too. Thanks Sally!!

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