Fire Damages Historic N.J. Inn

Balloon-frame construction helped the fire spread through all levels of the Bedford Inn.

Jan. 25--An early morning fire severely damaged the historic Bedford Inn in Cape May, fire officials said.

Firefighters responded to an activated fire alarm at the bed and breakfast at 5:30 a.m. to find fire visible in the rear exterior of the building, said Rick Lundholm, deputy chief of the Cape May Fire Department.

The blaze quickly spread to the rest of the Stockton Avenue building despite firefighters arriving from many nearby departments. By the time it was extinguished at about 7 a.m., Lundholm said the Bedford Inn had sustained significant damage.

"It spread through all three floors," he said.

Lundholm said older homes like the Bedford Inn -- which was built in 1883 -- utilized "balloon construction" with long framing members and continuous open spaces within the walls. Such construction makes it more difficult to stop fires once they've begun, he said.

"It's like open spaces throughout the building that provides a lot of access for fire to travel," he said.

The building was unoccupied at the time of the fire, Lundholm said. One firefighter was treated and released from Cape Regional Medical Center for a back injury.

He said the fire is still under investigation, but authorities do not believe it to be suspicious.

Firefighters from the Coast Guard, Cape May Point, Erma, Villas and West Cape May departments all responded to the blaze.

Copyright 2014 - The Press of Atlantic City, Pleasantville, N.J.