The death of an elderly woman at a Harrison fire scene last Monday, April 8, has been characterized by fire and law enforcement officials as a tragic accident.
That was the conclusion reached by investigators from the state Division of Fire Safety, in consultation with the Harrison fire official and the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.
Assistant Hudson County Prosector Gene Rubino identified the victim as Irene Fenton, 72.
Fenton was the lone occupant of a second-floor rear apartment at 209 N. Second St. where firefighters responded at about 12:30 p.m., following an emergency 911 call, and found Fenton lying on a landing just outside her apartment.
Harrison Fire Director Harold Stahl said the civilian who called in the alarm initially saw what appeared to be steam venting from the building but then spotted smoke coming out the windows, prompting the 911 call.
Stahl and Rubino said the fire probably originated in the apartment’s kitchen where, they said, investigators found “evidence of cooking” on a stove top having likely taken place before the fire.
“It appears that possibly, [Fenton’s] clothes ignited,” Stahl said. “She probably collapsed.”
An autopsy performed April 9 by the Northern Regional Medical Examiner’s Office in Newark determined the cause of death as smoke inhalation combined with exterior burns, Rubino said. Fenton was officially pronounced dead at the scene at 2:32 p.m., he said.
Rubino said the victim’s next of kin, who was overseas at the time of the fire, has been notified of the death.
The Harrison Fire Department was assisted by firefighters from Kearny and Jersey City and no injuries to firefighters were reported, Stahl said.
– Ron Leir