05/14/05 - Posted from the Daily Record newsroom
Morristown fire routs residents

MORRISTOWN - Two women and about a dozen children were evacuated Friday afternoon when fire spread through an apartment in a building at Sussex Avenue and Henry Street.

The fire at 35-39 Sussex Ave. started on the third floor and spread through the apartment, fire department Capt. Jon Prachthauser said.

It was reported by a neighbor at 12:17 p.m., and Morristown's Tour 3 was there in less than a minute.

Police officers and fire crews from Cedar Knolls, Morris Plains, Morris Township, the Morristown Ambulance Squad and Madison arrived soon after. Republican gubernatorial candidate John Murphy, a volunteer firefighter in the township, assisted the fire crews at the scene. Officers blocked off Sussex Avenue for about four hours while investigators checked out the scene.

Prachthauser coordinated firefighting units while firefighters Nick Prizzi and Alex Cadena handled the evacuations.

Prachthauser said the fire probably started because electrical wires in the apartment were damaged. The cause of the blaze appears accidental, he added.

The building, which consists of five apartments, will be shut down until it is repaired. The Red Cross provided temporary shelter and aid to the residents. Officials said the building is owned by Chris Pappas. At the scene, relatives of Pappas would not comment about the blaze.

Morristown Police Sgt. William O'Connor, said there was no sign of "stacking," or overcrowding, in the building. But, he added, town officials will investigate further.

Prachthauser said the department's quick response prevented the building from burning down.

"It could have easily spread on the roof," Prachthauser said. "The image that stays clear in my mind is that of Nick (Prizzi) coming down the stairs with two kids in his arms."

Eugene Mulero can be reached at emulero@gannett.com or (973) 267-9038.