Fmr. fire chief dead in Burlington Co. blaze

SPRINGFIELD TWP., N.J. - June 12, 2012

The victim was identified as Larry Metzger. He was the former chief of the Plainsboro, Middlesex County fire department and had been volunteering with the Springfield Township, Burlington County fire department.

In fact, it was Springfield Township firefighters who responded to the blaze at Metzger's home at 5:17 p.m. in the 100 block of Columbus-Jobston Road.

It took fire crews more than two hours to get the fire under control. There was little of the home left by the time the fire was put out.

Jeff Callahan was on his porch Monday afternoon when the fire was discovered.

He and another neighbor ran to see if they could help because they saw Larry Metzger's car outside the garage, but there was no sign of him.

"We saw the automobile out there...We were screaming, yelling, but no response and as we went to the deck to see if we could peek in the door the whole back of the house was just ablaze," Callahan said.

Neighbors did manage to push four cars out of the garage before it, too, went up.

Initially, rescuers on the scene had no reports of deaths or injuries. That was until Metzger's body was found on Tuesday morning.

His wife and son were out of the house when the fire broke out.

"We're saddened obviously by the loss of one of our members. Larry was with us for 11 years," Chief Brian Kokotajlo of the Springfield Volunteer Fire Department said.

Efforts to extinguish the blaze out were hampered by the fact there are no hydrants in this rural area, water had to be trucked in.

"It went up quick. We were all standing on the lawn and you could feel the heat," neighbor Ralph Puca said.

The cause of the deadly blaze is still under investigation.

The Plainsboro Fire Company has released the following statement:

"We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of our former chief, Larry Metzger. Larry was a very active and deeply committed member of the Plainsboro Fire Company. He served the citizens of Plainsboro for many years as a firefighter, fire officer and as chief from 1992 through 1994. He was a good friend to many of us. He was serious about his responsibilities, but also enjoyed a good laugh in the firehouse. We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife and children, his family, friends and all who knew him."

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