LEONIA - The bodies found in a Leonia home ravaged by fire are confirmed to be two women who were initially unaccounted for.
Harriette Townsend, 65, and her daughter Ruth Townsend, 33, were killed in the blaze, which broke out at around 5 a.m. at a home near Maple and Spring streets. The intense fire caused the home's roof to collapse.
"We love this town. The town loves us," says Harriette Townsend's brother, Gordon Coleman. "And the town lost two good people today." Coleman says the family has lived in the town for almost 100 years.
Coleman told News 12 New Jersey that several people tried to rescue his sister and niece, but were unsuccessful because of the unstable fire conditions. Authorities confirmed the fire was too intense to attempt a rescue.
Reports say two other people who lived in the home were treated for minor injuries.
Harriette Townsend was a longtime crossing guard at the high school.
"What people don't realize is crossing guards have the most dangerous occupation of any public employee," says Leonia Police Chief Thomas Rowe. "More so than a firefighter and police officer."
Rowe says Harriette Townsend spent nearly a decade helping children to school, and says patrols rarely had to check her post because she was always there.
Damage to the home was so extensive that a crane was brought in to take apart the second floor to aid in the search, according to the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but there have not been any reports of foul play.