ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. -- A woman whose body was found after flames blew through the roof of an Elmwood Park two-family Tuesday night was burned so badly that the county medical examiner had to conduct an autopsy to help identify her, authorities said.
"If it's who we believe, she's in her early 30s," Police Chief Michael Foligno told Daily Voice.
The autopsy by the Bergen County Medical Examiner's Office was continuing as authorities sought next of kin, the chief said.
"Preliminary evidence is pointing towards the origin being possibly in the kitchen and possibly due to an electrical appliance," Foligno said Wednesday morning, "but the investigation is still ongoing.
"First responding officers discovered the house fully engulfed in flames and thick heavy smoke emanating from the building," the chief said. "Officers attempted to force entry into the residence but were held back by the intense heat and thick heavy smoke."
A search was temporarily suspended before the roof caved in at the two-family brick house in the middle of Miller Avenue around 11:30 p.m.
Firefighters got the second-floor fire under control within a half hour, then went back in and found the victim, Elmwood Park Councilman Joe Dombrowski told Daily Voice late Tuesday (see video, above).
Foligno said the body was found next to a bed in a second-floor bedroom adjacent to the kitchen.
Neither he nor Dombrowski could confirm a source's report that the woman may already have been dead, though not of suspicious circumstances, when the fire broke out.
The downstairs tenant fled to a neighbor's house after the sound of smoke alarms woke her and she found heavy smoke in the hallway, the police chief said.
Borough police requested the Bergen County Prosecutor's Arson Investigation Unit, as well as the Bergen County Sheriff's Bureau of Criminal Identification to collect evidence, sources at the scene said.
However, they said this was because a fatality was involved and that there was no immediate indication of foul play.
Dombrowski commended "the rapid response of our fire department and mutual aid."
The councilman said he was "thankful our men and women firefighters all are safe -- however, my hearts are with the victim's family."
The blaze drew fellow firefighters from Fair Lawn, Garfield, Saddle Brook and Clifton.
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