Three Pemberton Township residents died early yesterday in a fire that destroyed their single-story home.
The blaze was reported just after 1 a.m. in the 600 block of Marie Drive, a leafy street in the township's Browns Mills neighborhood. Killed in the fire were Young Boo Lee, 74, his wife, Tasuk Lee, 67, and his mother, Myo Sun Lee, 92.
The blaze tore through the roof, collapsed the walls and left sagging planks and debris embracing a charred frame.
As firefighters battled the flames, police officers pounded on neighbors' doors, said Tim Deist, who lives next door.
The heat was so intense it melted the vinyl siding of his home.
"I'm grateful we're alive," said his wife, Sharon Deist. "It was pretty much a miracle our house didn't suffer more damage."
The firefighters' arrival was preceded by at least two explosions, police said.
"It sounded like a shotgun. It was a boom - two times," said Martha McBride, a neighborhood resident who was watching CNN at the time.
Officials yesterday were investigating the origins of the fire at the 32-year-old house.
Timothy Deist described the victims as quiet but friendly. Young Boo Lee often practiced his golf swing in the back yard, where Tasuk and Myo Sun Lee tended to their vegetable garden, he said.
Young Boo Lee's sister came to the scene yesterday morning, but was too distraught to speak.
Authorities blocked off part of the street yesterday, as fire and police vehicles crowded together there.
All five township fire departments - with assistance from Fort Dix - responded to the blaze, evacuating residents and bringing it under control by 2:47 a.m., authorities said.
Members of the State and Burlington County Fire Marshal's Office and Burlington County Prosecutor's Office are currently assisting the Pemberton Township Police Detective Division in the investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call the Pemberton Township Detective Division at (609) 894-3310.