A family is grieving after a woman died and two others were injured following an early morning blaze in New Jersey Sunday.
East Orange firefighters doused the home at 67 Midland Avenue in fire retardant as they tried to knock down the inferno shortly before 5:30 a.m. Investigators said the blaze started as a kitchen fire.
Flames engulfed the entire three-story house, sending embers flying into the air. Parts of a storm drain glowed orange as they fell to the ground. Homes across the street were evacuated as a precaution, displacing dozens of residents into a nearby bus.
Corey Phillips told News 4 that his mother, 72-year-old Maureen Phillips, died in the fire. He was speechless as his loved ones tried to comprehend the loss of their "momma", as she was affectionately referred to by many.
"When they went back in to get momma, the smoke and fire was too much," he said, choking up. "I lost everything, you know?"
"It's sad and it's terrible," said Corey Stevens, a friend of the Phillips family. "It's hard to swallow."
Two people were injured after they leaped to safety from a third floor window, East Orange Public Information Officer Connie Jackson said. The other five residents were safe.
Hours later, all that remained of the completely burnt-down home was charred wood and billowing clouds of smoke. Neighbor Howard Campbell was awakened by the screams coming from next door.
"I heard somebody screaming," he said. "I woke up, I ran to my back door and I see the flame going up."
An empty home under construction that was adjacent to the one where the family lived also burnt down, and at least six other homes have been damaged by the heat, police said. Occupants of those homes have been allowed back inside.
A family of eight lived in the home at the corner of Springdale Avenue, a program manager from the Red Cross disaster program said. Red Cross officials were at the scene to assist and check for smoke alarms.
Friends and neighbors are still reeling from the news, but say now is the time to be the support and glue to the Phillips family like Maureen was to them.