Fire Official: Up To 5 Feet Of Debris Inside Home Made Fighting Blaze 'Difficult'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) —  An elderly woman is dead after an early morning fire at a home on Staten Island where officials say clutter inside the house made fighting the blaze difficult.

Flames could be seen pouring from the home after the fire broke out just after 4 a.m. Monday on Driggs Street. One neighbor tried to use a garden hose to put out the fire, quickly grabbing it from the side of his house.

“Panicking. I didn’t know what to do so I did what was natural, try to put out a fire,” neighbor Anhtony Fezza told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.

More than 100 firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze, but FDNY Deputy Chief Brian Gorman said piles of debris were blocking the front entrance.

“The heavy piles of clutter and debris kind of halt search operations and line advancement right at the front door, it’s very difficult to climb over,” Gorman said. “I think there was three to five feet of debris that was met right at the entrance doorway, so it’s not just like walking in the door. It makes advancing a very difficult challenge.”

After firefighters put out the flames, police said the woman was found in the back of the home on the first floor. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

“It was almost my biggest fear,” Fezza said. “The house was in horrible condition.”

“Just a nice person, kept to herself,” said neighbor Louie Barone. “Been through some hard times in her life.”

“I’ll pray for them,” another neighbor told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck. “What a tragedy.”

The woman lived alone, but about a dozen family members showed up Monday morning. They did not want to speak on camera.

The home is now blackened with ash and the siding on the neighbor’s house was also melted by the heat.

One firefighter suffered a minor injury.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.


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