Devastated Neighbors Blame NJ Fire on Alleged Hoarder - NBC New York

Devastated Neighbors Blame NJ Fire on Alleged Hoarder

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Devastated Neighbors Blame NJ Fire on Alleged Hoarder

    Six families are homeless after a three-alarm fire tore through several homes in New Jersey Tuesday. Jen Maxfield reports. (Published Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014)

    Six families are homeless after a three-alarm fire tore through several homes in New Jersey Tuesday.

    The fire broke out near the kitchen of one of the homes andy spread to the five other units in the Dunellen rowhouse on Pulaski Street. 

    Dunellen Fire Chief Jonathan Scott said personal items piled up inside the home where the fire started prevented firefighters from getting past the front door, and firefighters could only attack the blaze from the outside. 

    It took 75 firefighters from 15 units in other towns to contain the fire. 

    Resident Joe Casey said he's complained to local and county officials about the conditions inside the home where the fire began. He said he's seen newspapers piled up to the ceiling in the attic, which is shared among all six homes in the rowhouse. 

    It was "about as bad as you can get, like you see on TV," he said, devastated after losing all his and his wife's belongings to the fire. 

    Joan Reigle, a sister of another neighbor, said she's seen the front porch of the home in question loaded with boxes. The woman who lived there "just hoarded everything, that's why it's burning so bad." 

    The owner of the unit, Cathy Whitehead, said officials inspected her home and she removed many of her items after her neighbors complained about hoarding.

    "We cleaned everything out, and I had permission from the county to have storage in the back bedroom," she said. 

    "I lost my husband three years ago and now I have lost everything, and I have to start over," she said. "Just a lot to think about." 

    One firefighter suffered heat exhaustion at the scene and was taken to Robert Wood Hospital, where he was recovering, officials said.

    An exact cause of the fire hasn't been determined. 
     

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