Survivor: Without Fire Plan, 'I Would Have Lost My Animals'

The owner of the Lake Drive home that burned Monday says the damage was worse than expected.

Andrea Antonelli-Rella is still reeling a bit after her home at . At the same time, the veterinarian says she feels fortunate because she and her husband were not hurt, and neither were her pets. And she is convinced that all are well because the Rellas followed an emergency plan.

"My husband is a police officer in Maplewood, so he is the man with the plan," she said. "He says to always have an idea [of what to do] when your house catches fire."

Apparently, Nick Rella had a plan and it worked. His wife said they were able to get themselves plus a combination of parrots and macaws totalliing six birds and three German shepherds out of the burning house and to safety within three minites.

Antonelli-Rella shared an emergency preparedness tip for bird owners.

"Each of my bird rooms has a crate. In case of emergency, the bird goes right into the crate in order to get it out of the door," she said. "Emergency preparedness, having an emergency plan, is so important. Without it, I would have lost my animals. Material possessions can be replaced. Pets and people can't."

The fire survivor also gave credit to the emergency responders of Parsippany.  Fire Co., working under Chief Keith McCormick, led the effort with backup from the  and the Boonton Fire Department. and were also at the scene of the fire.

"They were amazing," she said. "They got to our house so fast. I can't believe the response. I can't give them enough credit. The damage would have been worse. At least we were able to salvage a few sentimental things."

Still, on the morning after the fire, Antonelli-Rella saw that the damage was even worse than she and officials had thought late Monday night, she said.

"The whole house is basically burned down," she said. "It's not just smoke damage; it's smoke, fire, water, and just about all the ceilings collapsed. There is only one room without damage in the house, one bedroom. It's a mess."

Antonelli-Rella said she is meeting with her insurance adjuster to see available options to rebuild.

While an official investigation of the fire has yet to be completed, Antonelli-Rao said the fire started with the ignition of insulation around the chimney that was installed by the house's previous owner.  She said she was unaware of the insulation and can't fathom why anyone would put insulation in a chimney.

"We bought the house in 2008 and we've used the chimney many, many times," she said. "I guess it was just a bomb waiting to go off.

"But that shows why it's so important to have a plan," the veterinarian continued. "Without that plan, we would have lost our animals or we would have been dead."



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