- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2020

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - Plainfield firefighter Melvyn Jayson Armstead never thought he would find himself at the other end of a fire hose.

But that’s exactly where Armstead, his wife, and three children were, after a two-alarm fire on Wednesday gutted the interior of their Greenwood Drive home. Armstead said the home was demolished Wednesday and the family has lost their two cats, who died in the fire, and all their belongings except the clothes on their backs.

“I have my work uniform and that’s it,” Armstead said.

He said a Piscataway school administrator has talked to his wife about his children’s school needs.

The Executive Officers of FMBA Local 7 and Charles Pivnichny, the union secretary, have set up a GoFundMe drive - “Helping a brother firefighter in need” - in hopes of raising $10,000 to help Armstead and his family get back on their feet. Nearly $7,000 had been raised by Thursday evening.

“Our Brother Firefighter Jayson Armstead and his family fell victim to the very thing he has sworn to protect people from. This morning 1/22/2020 his house was destroyed by a fire taking all of his family’s belongings. Luckily no one was hurt, but the family’s two cats perished. The members of Plainfield FMBA Local 7 are asking for your help in getting the Armstead family back on their feet. Jay is a dedicated Firefighter, Air Force veteran, and proud father. Any amount would be appreciated,” is written on the page.

Armstead said his wife and brother-in-law were home Wednesday when his wife saw smoke coming from under the furnace. She called the fire department which instructed her to turn the furnace off. She said there was too much smoke and she was told to get out of the house.

Armstead said the family has lived at their home at 1431 Greenwood Drive for five years and have not had any problems with the furnace. He has no idea what happened to cause the fire, which is under investigation by the Piscataway fire marshal.

His three children were at school during the blaze. Armstead said he had just gotten off duty from his full-time firefighting job and was going to his part-time job when the fire started. He had left the house about 45 minutes earlier.

The fire was reported about 10 a.m. Arriving firefighters found fire coming from the back of the home, and blowing out the windows, as well as fire from the front of the structure and heavy smoke, according to Arbor Hose Fire Company Chief Josh Scolnick.

The roof collapsed from the fire.

Armstead said the fire has turned everything upside down. He said his children are stressed about losing the family’s 16-year-old cats but are otherwise holding up.

“You lose everything in an hour,” said Armstead, who is temporarily staying with his family at a Piscataway hotel.

He said the family is planing to rebuild their home.

Online: https://bit.ly/2Gnrv2g

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