Fast-moving fire guts Wayne mansion
Wednesday, August 16, 2000
By JOSH GOHLKE
Staff Writer

WAYNE -- A half-million-dollar home on a secluded cul-de-sac in the exclusive Pines Lake section became the third home in the township to burn down in as many days early Tuesday.

The owner of the house, Dr. George Pavlou, escaped with his family and only a minor injury, but his hilltop home on Cheyenne Way was destroyed by the fast-moving fire, which started in the library just before midnight Monday.

"It took about four hours to get it under control, but at that time, the house was totally gutted," said Fire Commissioner Mark McGrath. "The house is a total loss."

Staying at a neighbor's home Tuesday afternoon, Pavlou and his wife, Patty, declined to comment at length. Pavlou, a 39-year-old physician with offices in Paterson and West Paterson, said only: "The house went on fire and it burned down. That's basically it."

Authorities said Pavlou told his wife and son, Andreas, to get out of the house and then tried to fight the flames with a garden hose. He suffered minor arm burns before escaping. Pavlou was treated by the township first aid squad but declined to go to a hospital.

Police Lt. John Reardon said the fire was accidental and possibly related to smoking.

McGrath said the blaze moved rapidly and had a "head start" on fire companies. When the first firefighters arrived at 156 Cheyenne Way, flames were visible through the front windows. The conflagration was such that even Tuesday afternoon, neighborhood residents were still driving by for a glimpse of the building's blackened stonework.

"It's a shame," said Joanne Cirilli, who lives on a nearby street. "From my house, all I could see was flames and smoke."

McGrath said a number of things hindered firefighters in their early morning battle: the two-story mansion's position, about 300 feet from the road atop a narrow, curving driveway; a problem with water pressure, which forced firefighters to change their tactics; and, when the flames began to die down, darkness.

The assessed value of the house was $547,500, according to the Wayne Tax Assessor's Office. Reardon estimated its size at more than 4,000 square feet.

Four of the township's five fire companies eventually took part in the effort to control the blaze. Companies 3 and 4, the first to arrive, were joined by Companies 1 and 5, McGrath said. Companies from Pompton Lakes and Haledon stood by.

The blaze was the third in a harrowing week for township firefighters. Early Monday, at least 10 cats died in a house fire on Hamburg Turnpike. The day before, an abandoned home on Fayette Avenue was the scene of the latest in a series of blazes started in flood-prone properties slated for demolition.

"I hope we don't have any more," Reardon said of the fires.

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Staff Writer Josh Gohlke's e-mail address is gohlke@bergen.com

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