Lt. Thomas Kmetz said in a statement that patrols and the Hopatcong Fire Department responded to a kitchen fire at the home at about 12:45 p.m. Jefferson Fire Department was on the scene as well to assist; companies from Byram, Roxbury and Sparta stood by at the Hopatcong Fire Houses in case they were needed for mutual aid.
In the end, the firefighters on the scene made quick work of the blaze: The fire was knocked down within 15 minutes of the first engine's arrival, according to Hopatcong Fire Chief Wade Crowley. The building suffered damage to its kitchen and attic and smoke damage is reported throughout the house, Kmetz said.
At the time that the fire engines were arriving, Hopatcong emergency medical technician Judy Wolff, who lives nearby, was attending to the homeowner, 53-year-old Matthew Dewar. According to Wolff, Dewar was outside in his yard when she arrived. But he had been inside the house when the fire started in the kitchen and spread to other areas of the residence, the statement continued.
Dewar told Wolff that he had been drinking alcohol Saturday night and recalled getting a final beer at 9:30 p.m. before passing out on the couch, Kmetz said, adding that Dewar "was awoken by the heat from the fire."
Investigators believe Dewar had the kitchen stove on when he passed out. The Sussex County Fire Marshal's office has ruled the blaze as an accidental one that occurred due to "unattended cooking."
Paramedic Wolff's medical evaluation of Dewar indicated that he had suffered burns of varying degrees to his nose, face, back and arms, that his hair had been singed and that the inside of his mouth was a very dark charcoal color.
Kmetz said Dewar was airlifted to the Burn Center at Saint Barnabas in Livingston, where he remains in the intensive care unit on a ventilator. There is no word yet on his condition.