MOUNT OLIVE - Morris County investigators are trying to figure out what sparked a fire that burned most of a split-level home in Mt. Olive and claimed the life of a man inside.

Neighbors say they saw flames and thick, black smoke shooting through the roof of the home on  Flanders-Drakestown Road at around 4 p.m. Wednesday. "There was a lot of smoke," says Carrie Nolan. "We could smell the fire. And shortly after we heard all the fire engines coming. It was loud and really scary."
Volunteer firefighters from several surrounding communities responded to the scene. Budd Lake's chief reportedly said firefighters could only get about 10 feet into the house, before the roof started to collapse.  

Mayor Robert Greenbaum was on the scene. "I saw a structure that was badly burned, he says. "When there is loss of life, rather than just property damage, it affects me and the town greatly."

Investigators say the man who died was the homeowner.  He was the only one home when the fire broke out.

"The loss of a home is one thing," says Nolan. "The loss of life... You can't be replaced."

Authorities have not yet released the name of the victim.