MONMOUTH COUNTY, N.J. – A New Jersey woman fighting eviction and refusing to vacate the home died in a fire on Wednesday when she intentionally set the blaze to a house she shared with dozens of cats.
New Jersey State Police had served the unnamed woman an eviction notice. However, she refused to vacate the premises and threatened to blow up the house. The massive fire broke out shortly after 11 a.m. in the Borough of Roosevelt.
“We’re getting reports that the resident turned on the gas of the residence prior to igniting,” State Police Lt. Lawrence Peele said, according to CBS New York.
The Roosevelt home before the deadly fire. (Google Street Maps)
Law enforcement personnel had a standoff with the woman, which forced an evacuation of neighbors in the immediate area.
Ultimately, several fire departments responded to the home that went up in flames, but were unable to get the woman out alive, according to the New York Post.
“They knocked on our door this morning. Thank God it was a pretty loud knock. I grabbed [my son]. They told us to leave. She was threatening with a bomb or to bomb the house and ended up with a fire,” one neighbor, Erin Luca, told CBS News.
The woman was the sole occupant of the house, located on Cedar Court. The cat-filled residence is completely charred and an attached home is now uninhabitable.
The woman and dozens of cats died in the fire, which began shortly after 11 a.m. on Wednesday in the Borough of Roosevelt. (Screenshot CBS New York)
No one else was injured by the fire, but another resident, Emma Quackenbush, lived in the attached unit for 22 years and lost everything in the inferno, New Jersey 101.5 reported.
“It looks like my house is gone. It’s still standing but it’s not livable,” Quackenbush lamented.
People gathering in the area near the charred remains said a man identified as the woman’s boyfriend had been trying to evict her for several years. However, his efforts were hindered temporarily by Gov. Phil Murphey’s pandemic-era eviction moratorium.
The unidentified woman was the sole occupant of the home. (Screenshot CBS New York)
Roosevelt Mayor Peggy Malkin told the Asbury Park Press that the woman was a pet-sitter and constructed a “cat house” for the felines to live in separately. It’s unclear how many cats died in the fire.