New Jersey Firefighters Battle Morning Blaze

LODI, N.J.-- A blaze tore through a single-family home on Grove Street Sunday morning, collapsing part of the roof and displacing at least six people, fire officials said.

One firefighter suffered second-degree burns, and a 71-year-old male resident of the house was rescued by a neighbor after he became disoriented from the heavy smoke and fumes that billowed out of the windows and doors of the house at 260 Grove St.

The cause of the fire, which brought firefighters not only from Lodi but also from a half-dozen surrounding towns at about 11 a.m., remained under investigation late Sunday night, said Paul W. Wanco, a Lodi fire official. He said it was not considered suspicious.

The fire may have started in the rear bedroom of the house, Wanco said. "Other than that, we couldn't come up with anything else," he said. "It's very heavily damaged."

One-third of the roof caved in, he said, and there was fire damage throughout the inside. "The fire really engulfed the rear of the structure," he said.

Six people lived in the house, including a couple and their two young children, ages 1 and 9, Wanco said.

He identified Sixto Santiago, possibly the father of one of the other adults, as the 71-year-old who succumbed to the smoke and was discovered by a neighbor.

Joe Caroselli, of Lodi, was that neighbor. He said he was visiting family down the street from 260 Grove St. when he noticed flames and heavy smoke pouring from the house.

He ran over to assist the family, and learned that Santiago remained in the house. Barging through the open front door, he said he discovered the elderly man lying on the living room floor.

Caroselli, a garbage man by trade, said he "picked up the guy, shoved him against a wall and dragged him out."

He said he went back in the house after the family's dog, locked in a room. "They were saying, 'My dog! My dog!' And there was Fido." He said he opened the door and fled with the pet.

A woman who neighbors identified as the owner of the house said she did not want to talk about the fire or give her name.

The firefighter and Santiago were treated and released from Hackensack Medical Center, officials said.

Mark Robles, 28, standing across the street from the house, identified himself as a relative of the residents at 260 Grove St.

"They pretty much lost everything," he said.

Republished with permission of The North Jersey Media Group.