CRANFORD, NJ — The body of the man killed in the house fire on Hillcrest Avenue has been identified as Philip Anter. The 60-year-old resident was the owner and sole occupant of the single-family home at 155 Hillcrest Ave.
Local Fire and Police departments responded to the blaze at about 6:45 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 9, according to a press release from the Cranford Fire Department. Anter’s body was found on the first floor.
According to the press release, the cause of the fire is undetermined and an investigation into the origin and cause of the fire continues, but it is not deemed suspicious.
Cranford firefighters believe that the fire started on the first floor of the home and Cranford fire Lt. Matthew Lubin stated in the release that the condition of the home’s interior was a factor.
“The department confirms that there was a significant degree of storage in the house, which can make firefighting difficult and can result in intense fire conditions,” according to the press release. “It is unknown, due to damage, whether the home had working smoke detectors.”
Lubin said the house was razed because it was structurally unsafe and there were concerns it could collapse and damage a neighboring home.
Firefighters encountered “heavy fire conditions” that initially prevented them from entering the house. Once they were able to enter, they discovered Anter’s body on the first floor. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Not only does storage inside a house hamper firefighters, but it can make it difficult to escape a building, Lubin said.
According to a 2009 article on NJ.com, a group of Anter’s neighbors had presented a petition to the Cranford Township Committee seeking a limit on the number of garage sales one resident can hold in a year, and requiring a permit for such sales.
The neighbors’ objections rose from the fact that Anter’s house was often kept in a “state of perpetual garage sale,” with the front lawn covered with items for sales listed in online classifieds.
Former Cranford health officer Warren Hehl had issued a summons for a violation of the property maintenance code, according to the article.