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03 July 2008

Essex Prosecutor's Office: Fire victim was burned badly; dental records were used to identify her

The Nutley woman who died in a fire at 276 Harrison St. Thursday morning was burned so badly that authorities had to used dental records to positively identify her, Essex County Prosecutor's Office Press Secretary Paul Loriquet said today.

The victim was ultimately identified as 35-year-old Rebecca Lee, of 276 Harrison St., according to Nutley Fire Inspector Lt. David Wilson.

The fire, which was reported to public safety at 5:42 Thursday morning, was contained to the home's second floor, according to Wilson. It was completely extinguished within 15 minutes of the fire department's arrival on the scene.

As Nutley units worked at the scene, units from Belleville and Lyndhurst provided backup coverage for the rest of the town, according to Wilson.

The Nutley Fire Department, Nutley Police Department, Essex County Prosecutor's Office and the Regional Medical Examiners Office are conducting a full-scale investigation as to the cause of the fire, Wilson said.

About an hour after officials left the scene of the fire, workers could be seen nailing up wooden boards to cover broken windows in the front portion of the home's second floor. Others were removing items from the home, where there appeared to be minimal damage on the first floor.

From time to time, curious onlookers, who were driving by, would slow down to look at the home. One resident, who asked her last name not be used, said while she didn't know the victim, she still felt deep pain about the community's loss.

"I didn't know her at all, but I wanted to come by to pay respects," the woman said. "In a small community like this one, when one person suffers, we all suffer. This is a terrible tragedy."

Loriquet says an autopsy is pending to determine the precise cause of Ms. Lee's death.


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