Residents who were forced from a Toms River apartment building amid a Thanksgiving morning fire are expected to be able to go home on Monday, Toms River officials said Saturday. The fire at Highland Plaza that forced 100 residents to evacuate was caused by careless smoking, said Kevin Esposito, chief inspector with the Toms River Bureau of Fire Prevention. The resident of the apartment was treated at Community Medical Center, Toms River, for smoke inhalation, he said. The fire started before 7 a.m. on Thanksgiving and authorities were alerted by an automated alarm; fire personnel arriving at the complex at 91 Highland Parkway saw smoke coming from an apartment window.
Esposito said firefighters under the command of Chief Mike Muttie from Toms River Fire Company 1 entered Tower C through a stairwell and were able to extinguish the fire without incident and extension to any other apartment. A sprinkler head outside the burning apartment activated and kept the fire from extending into the hallway, he said. The residents initially were taken to Toms River High School South with assistance from the Toms River school district, which provided buses for the evacation amid the frigid temperatures, said Jillian Messina of the Toms River Police Department. Some residents were picked up by family and others were placed in temporary housing by the building owner, she said. Paul Daley, Toms River emergency management coordinator, said it was expected most residents would be able to return to the building on Monday.