NEWARK - Six people, including two children, were killed in a fire that ripped through a Newark home Sunday morning, and officials say decorations meant to beautify the home may have fueled the flames.
Officials say the fire was ignited in front of the two-story home on South 15th Street near Madison Avenue just before 4 a.m. Fire investigators believe elaborate, but highly flamable plastic décor on the porch and front lawn may have contributed to the blaze, which quickly spread to all three floors, trapping the family inside.
"These flowers are highly flammable once ignited and served as a conduit for an almost unbelievably fast fire that spread across the front of the house and up through the house," says Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray.
Neighbor Juanita Joffers says the decorations continued inside the home and on the back balcony as well.
The victims have been identified as Reginald Stewart, his wife Salome, both 58; her sister Natasha Kinsale, 47; 11-year-old Zion Forber, of East Orange; Noreen Johnson, 43; and her 15-year-old son, Stephon Sydney.
Officials say the victims had left their beds, but were not able to make it out.
The flames also spread to and damaged the house next door. No injuries were reported in the second home.
Reginald, Salome and Natasha were permanent residents of the home. Stephon had just arrived from Georgia Saturday to spend Father's Day with family because his father died a year ago in a motorcycle accident.
Friends say the matriarch of the family, whom they called "Salomi," wasn't just a mother and grandmother to her own family, but to the neighborhood kids as well. They say she often passed out books and pencils and other presents.
There is no word yet on what sparked the fire. No smoke detectors were found in the home. The Essex County Prosecutor's Office is investigating.