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Jerome C. Higgins had been the custodian for James Monroe Elementary School for 24 years when he chose to smoke in his office, discard the cigarette in his trash can, resulting in the school burning to the ground.
The James Monroe Elementary School held 450 students and the building was 50 years old. It was built in 1963-64 when fire sprinklers were not required. The school never updated and installed fire sprinklers. It did have smoke and fire detectors.
Frank Imbriacco, the Chief of the Edison Fire Department said that firefighters entered the building with hoses and tried to put out the fire, but were pushed out by large flames and a wall of smoke. They then took a defensive position, pouring water on the flames from outside.
The students will be temporarily placed at Middlesex County College until permanent facilities can be found.
Board President Maeroff said the school is covered by insurance and will likely be rebuilt because it is a community school and there are no other locations within the town to build a new school. The newest school in Edison was built in 1972.