Man found dead after Little Egg Harbor Township house fire
LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS) -- Tuesday afternoon, investigators in Ocean County remain on the scene of a deadly house fire. A man's body was found on the first floor and the flames also damaged two other homes.
"It's just been amazing and overwhelming, and I just can't describe it," Christine Ackerman said.
After one of her darkest days, Ackerman is now leaning on neighbors for strength as investigators search through the rubble at the place she's called home for nearly 20 years.
"I saw smoke coming from a home and I did not know it was my home at the time," Ackerman said.
Ackerman says she was driving home from work around 1:45 p.m. Monday when neighbors started seeing heavy smoke and flames on the second floor. She says her heart sank knowing her brother and dog were still inside.
"There is a room on the first floor and he may have mistakenly thought that was the front door, but he went into the room and that's where they recovered his body," Ackerman said.
She says her brother, Eric Velchko, 54, was trapped and didn't survive. He lived with her for several years.
Ackerman says she couldn't watch as her home and memories went up in flames. But then she heard people clapping and when she turned around, she says she saw a firefighter walking out with her dog, Brodie, who was rescued from the basement.
"To see him, it was a miracle," Ackerman said. "But I was just hoping my brother would have walked out with him as well."
You can now see clear through the front windows of her house and the walls are nothing more than charred boards sticking into the air.
"When I grew up my house burnt down as well when I was 16 years old, so I know exactly what she's going through," neighbor Kim Landon said.
Now, neighbors like Landon stepped forward to give Ackerman a place to stay.
The tight-knit community also started raising money on GoFundMe after she lost practically everything.
"The outpouring of generosity and love has just been wonderful," Ackerman said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
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