Fire chief: Clutter throughout apartment hampered attempts to rescue woman who died in blaze


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JERSEY CITY, New Jersey — Firefighters had a hard time getting to a woman who died on the second floor of a house on fire in New Jersey because of an extreme amount of clutter, officials said.

Stephanie Britton, 32, was found under a mattress in the apartment in Jersey City and died from smoke inhalation, said Jersey City Fire Chief Darren Rivers.

He described the home as a "hoarder situation."

Firefighters had a hard time getting to the second floor because of the amount of debris on the stairs, Rivers said. The staircase was so cluttered that it was like a slide, Rivers said.

A firefighter suffered a twisted ankle while fighting the two-alarm blaze, Rivers said, which was under control in 20 minutes.

He said the blaze appears to have started with an electrical short in the basement.

"The fire started in the basement in the boiler. I was in bed and I smelled smoke and went looking for it," the woman's father, Stanley Britton, told The Jersey Journal. "I tried to put it out with water and the fire extinguisher but it just spread."

He made it out of the home unharmed along with the woman's mother and sister. They were assisted by the American Red Cross.

Britton and two other family members were at the home Friday morning going through belongings piled outside.

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