BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Two people died and a third is in critical condition following a fire at a home on Orion Road in Berkeley Heights Thursday morning.

The first call came into police at 12:47 a.m. from a neighbor reporting the smell of smoke in  area. While police and firefighters were on their way to the fire, a second 9-1-1 caller said there was a structure fire at 104 Orion Road, said Police Capt. Robert Deitch.

When police arrived, they found heavy smoke coming out of the home and forced the door open but were unable to enter the home. Neighbors told police that two elderly people were in the home. 

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When Berkeley Heights firefighters arrived, they were able to enter the home, find an elderly woman and a live-in home health aide on the first floor, the elderly man on the second floor and take them out of the home, where CPR and other medical assistance was administered to each. They were transported to Overlook Medical Center, where the man and woman were pronounced dead. The female home health care aide was reported to be in critical condition.

The names of the victims have not been released by police.

Deputy Chief Jim Hopkins said he and Fire Chief Anthony Padovano were the first to arrive at the scene of the fire at 12:56 a.m., followed immediately by the ladder truck.

The crew from Engine 4 found the first victim quickly, and firefighters performed CPR on her. Shortly after that, the second victim was found and brought outside where firefighters rendered first aid.



The firefighters from New Providence found the third victim on the second floor, as they swept the home to make sure no one else was inside, he said.

The fire was found in the basement and extinguished.  The cause of the fire is being investigated.

Chatham Township and Summit Fire Departments also responded to the scene.

"Numerous EMS crews responded, including Berkeley Heights, Summit, Long Hill, Watchung, Chatham and County," Hopkins said. Atlantic paramedics, an Atlantic Supervisor and the County EMS coordinator were also on the scene.

Berkeley Heights EMS had two rigs respond to transport two patients and a third patient was transported by Watchung EMS. 

Two firefighters were injured and transported to the hospital by Chatham EMS. "One had a serious hand injury and suffered from smoke inhalation. The second had a hand injury," Hopkins said.

Berkeley Heights Rescue Squad along with the others units also provided firefighter rehab on scene during the fire.

"There were no working smoke detectors in the house, which breaks my heart," Hopkins said.  The department has a full supply of smoke detectors with 10-year batteries acquired especially for older residents, so they don't have to climb ladders to change batteries every six months, he said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Berkeley Heights Fire Department and Union County Arson Squad. This is not deemed to be suspicious at this time, Deitch said.