Authorities suspect an electric stove touched off a lunchtime fire Thursday that displaced eight families from a Morristown public housing development.
Nobody was injured, and residents already had evacuated when firefighters arrived at the smoky blaze in the Manahan Village Apartments at Flagler Street, said Fire Chief Robert Flanagan.
Firefighters got the call at 11:56 a.m. Flanagan said it appears the fire started at an electric stove in a second floor apartment in the center of Building 6, and spread into the attic, affecting the apartments on each side.
It was not immediately clear if any occupants were at home in the apartment where the fire started, when it began.
All 10 apartments in the building appear to have sustained smoke or water damage, said Keith Kinard, executive director of the Morristown Housing Authority. A portion of the roof also was damaged heavily.
“It’s not horrible, but it’s bad,” Kinnard said of the situation. “It’s definitely repairable. It’s going to take time, though.”
Eight of the 10 units had tenants, said Claudio Perez of the Red Cross. The Red Cross will provide housing for any of those residents who need it, for two or three nights, along with clothing and food, Perez said.
Morris County social services organizations and the housing authority probably will provide long-term help, he said.
One man who lived in the unit below the fire has a serious medical condition. Medical equipment was removed from that apartment while officials were investigating the scene.
“I’m just thankful everybody got out okay,” said Madonna Beston, a disabled woman who lives with her three daughters and two granddaughters in Building 6, a few doors from the fire.
“I saw a little cloud of smoke in my place, and someone knocked on my door and said, ‘Get out, the building’s on fire!” recounted Beston, who was with one of her daughters and her 2-year-old grandson at the time.
As firefighters were wrapping up, she was anxious for permission to return inside to collect some belongings.
Next door, staff of the Morristown Neighborhood House voluntarily evacuated preschoolers and employees when they saw smoke, said Linda Murphy, executive director for operations and outreach.
“We could smell it in here,” said Murphy, former principal of Morristown High School. She said everyone remained calm. “I’ve been in the schools. It takes a lot to scare me.”
Firefighters quelled the fire in about 45 minutes, the chief said.
“Morristown’s Bravest did a great job of quickly knocking this down,” said Morristown Public Safety Director Michael Corcoran Jr.
Firemen were assisted by Morristown police, and firefighters from Morris Township, Morris Plains and Cedar Knolls. Atlantic Ambulance also responded.