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Fire Destroys House on Hamilton Street Occupied by Rutgers Students

One Person Injured in Accidental Fire Started in Basement of House Near Division St.
175 Hamilton Fire
A fire broke out at 175 Hamilton Street, near the intersection with Division Street. Nicholas West

UPDATE (2/3, 9PM): A source has indicated that an additional seven residents from one of the neighboring properties were displaced because of the fire, bringing the total displaced to fourteen.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ--Just after a dramatic Super Bowl came to an end on a cold Sunday evening, a 122-year-old home on Hamilton Street caught fire, injuring one person and leaving seven city residents out of a home.

"The fire at 175 Hamilton Street started in the basement and was ruled to be accidental," said city spokesperson Jennifer Bradshaw.

"One 19-year-old resident of 175 Hamilton was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital with minor hand burns," Bradshaw said.

"50 firefighters were on scene," Bradshaw said. "On-scene aid was provided by East Franklin, Edison, East Brunswick, North Brunswick. Additional assistance was provided by Sayreville, Milltown, Highland Park and North Brunswick Company two."

Firefighters ultimately defeated the blaze within two hours of receiving the initial call at 10:29pm on February 1, according to officials, but three buildings were damaged in total.

While city police officers evacuated the two neighboring buildings, residents of the burning building had already evacuated themselves by the time authoritities arrived on scene.

"Seven residents were displaced and have all self-relocated," said Bradshaw. 

The house that burned is owned by Ian and Sandra Muschett, of Princeton, according to property records.  It was built in 1892 and purchased for $333,000 in May of 2006.

The neighboring houses sustained water and smoke damage, but were not damaged by flame, Bradshaw told New Brunswick Today.

"[177] Hamilton also sustained two broken windows as a result of exposure protection while firefighters battled the fire," Bradshaw said.

One source indicated to the Daily Targum, the Rutgers student newspaper, that the fire began after alcohol spilled near an open oven.

"After alcohol spilled on the floor close to an open lit oven, one of the occupants tried wiping it up, and drops of alcohol splashed, igniting flames throughout the kitchen," read the Targum's article published on February 2, citing the anonymous source.

"The occupants tried to extinguish the fire by throwing snow on it," it continued.

Bradshaw, the city spokesperson confirmed  that was indeed the case: "The fire inspectors are telling me that the cause of the fire is believed to be rubbing alcohol that was knocked over, flowed under the lit stove and ignited vapors, spreading back to the couch."

Two different online fundraising campaigns were started to benefit the residents of the home.

One campaign, started on the website "GoFundMe" by Devshree Khachane, garnered more than $4,600 from more than 100 donors in just 15 hours.

"Three Kappa Phi Gamma sisters and a close friend came back to their home at 175 Hamilton reenergized and excited to start off the Spring semester just a few weeks ago," reads the fundraising appeal.  "They didn't know that on Superbowl Sunday their lives would be turned upside down."

"The sisters at Omicron Colony of Kappa Phi Gamma Sorority Inc. are reaching out to you for any and all the support you can provide the girls. Even the smallest donation will be helpful in rebuilding their lives."

Meanwhile, a campaign to raise $10,000 on the website "IndieGogo" was launched by Zach Adams to benefit residents Kevin Baron and Max Yenk.

"Our friends Kevin and Max lost everything in this fire, and we are trying to raise money to help them get back the stuff that they lost. Everything, including money, clothes, textbooks, laptops, was destroyed. All funds raised will go directly to our friends, who are students at Rutgers University, to help get them back on their feet.

That campaign has raised $879, 9% of the goal, as of February 3.