Heater suspected in fatal New Jersey fire

Posted at 9:41 PM, Feb 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-18 21:42:43-05

Investigators are looking at a space heater as the possible cause of a fast-moving fire that killed a 52 year old man and his 7 year old stepson in  Flanders, New Jersey.  Fanned by fierce winds, flames quickly engulfed the multi-family home on Main Street.

Four families occupy apartments. Three got out okay.  But trapped in  a first floor apartment was Hashen Moustafa and his boy.  Volunteer firefighters, using thermal imaging devices, pulled them out of the house. Despite efforts, they could not be saved.  But a 9 year old girl was.  She was airlifted to St. Barnabas Hospital burn unit where she was listed in  critical but stable condition.

Neighbor Daniel Nelson told PIX 11 News he and his wife were awakened by terrifying screams. When they looked out their bedroom window they saw flames shooting from the house across the street and people trying to restrain a woman who was screaming frantically for her children.  The woman  and another daughter escaped unharmed.

Fatal Flanders Fire

Flanders Fire Chief Frank Zeller told PIX 11 News the weather presented a challenge to firefighters. With temperatures around 5 degrees, water froze over.  But a sudden change in wind direction turned away from the fire, enabling firefighters to bring it under control.

The Red Cross is providing temporary shelter for displaced families. Officials said as bad as the fire was, it could have been worse had firefighters not responded as quickly as they did.  They were there in minutes.  The firehouse was just 100 yards awy.