A man who continued to smoke while relying on oxygen was killed and his wife was injured in a fire that ripped through a ground-floor garden apartment in Camden County late Tuesday, officials and neighbors said.
A dog named Rocky was also being called a hero by its owner, because its barking helped his wife, daughter and step-father escape.
Neighbors identified the victims as James Beck, 60, and his wife, Frances, 51, who lived in apartment 181 at the Bellmawr Manor complex on Kings Highway in Bellmawr.
Frances Beck was hospitalized with smoke inhalation and burns.
Next-door neighbor Maria Martorama said she and Frances Beck had been chatting on the porch on a warm night when they parted company about 11 p.m.
A short time later, she said she heard an explosion next door.
Matorama said Jim Beck apparently triggered the blast by smoking while on oxygen in a bedroom.
"He was always smoking," she said. "He smoked himself to death."
Martoramo said Frances Beck was burned trying to reach her husband.
"I pulled her out," she said.
James Pokrywka said that Rocky, his Jack Russell-pug mix, or "jug," kept barking until Pokrywka's wife, 1-year-old daughter and step-father woke up and got out safely.
The blaze was confined to the Beck's apartment, but surrounding residences suffered smoke and water damage.
Investigators early this morning had not released an official cause of the fire.
The apartment reportedly had no working smoke detectors.
Residents of those apartments and about eight others in the building were displaced by the fire, including Martoramo, who was taken in by neighbors across the street and was waiting to get back into her home to get her medicine and oxygen tank.