EDISON, NJ – Dozens of spectators including teachers, students and parents stood in shock outside of James Monroe Elementary School on the evening of March 22 as they witnessed a devastating fire ravage the school that has been creating memories for so many children for 50 years.
Edison firefighters were dispatched just before 8:00 p.m. to 7 Sharp Rd. for an alarm activation.
Firefighters found heavy smoke showing and fire that appeared to be concentrated in the center of the building, near the library and school offices. Handlines were deployed to make an attempt on an aggressive interior attack, but crews were forced to evacuate the building shortly after and transitioned to a defensive operation due to the heavy volume of fire. Multiple water supplies were established from different sides of the building to feed engines and tower ladders that were set up to battle the intense flames that were consuming the roof. Several exterior handlines and elevated master streams continued to flow for hours before the bulk of the fire was darkened and brought under control.
Companies continued to flow water from the exterior throughout the night onto the burned out, smoldering shell to extinguish hot spots. Multiple areas of the roof and wall collapsed resulting in an unstable building. Firefighters rotated in and out of rehabilitation during the extended operations. A fuel truck was summoned to the scene to refuel apparatus as their tanks ran low.
There are nearly 500 students that attend the elementary school that will need to be relocated to other schools within the township. The Edison Board of Education stated that it’s not going to be a problem easily solved due to an already overcrowded school district.
The school was not occupied at the time of the fire. A dozen firefighters suffered smoke inhalation while operating at the scene and were treated and released.
Mutual aid fire departments from surrounding towns including Metuchen, South Plainfield, Highland Park, Woodbridge Township, Piscataway Township, New Brunswick, North Brunswick, and Old Bridge Township responded to the scene to assist and cover the township during the incident. Fire departments were rotated throughout the night and early morning to relieve firefighters who were operating for hours.
The fire is being investigated by Edison detectives, the Middlesex County Fire Marshal’s Office, and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office to determine the cause and origin.