The fire was reported at around 10:40 a.m., according to CBS 2 News. Neighbors said they noticed flames and smoke from a fire that apparently started in the home’s basement. One neighbor described a “gassy, chemical smell almost.” Police who arrived first said the front door was red hot and they had to kick it open. Eleanor and Henry Golis, both in their 90s, lived in the home. Scott Thiel of the Nassau County Police Department said Eleanor Golis was pulled unconscious, from the house,
“then [police] realized, the second male victim was inside behind her on the floor, also unconscious.” Henry Golis was badly burned and died of his injuries, police said. Mrs. Golis is in critical condition. Firefighters searched the premises for the couple’s son, but later determined that he was not at home.
The search was hampered by piles of clutter. Albertson Fire Chief Joel Melamed described the scene as a hoarding situation, with “boxes full of clothes, shoes and debris, newspapers inside the house, very cluttered,” according to CBS 2 News. Chief Melamed said “[m]ost of the fire was in the basement and it came up into the kitchen,” adding that there did not appear to be smoke detectors in the house.
Fire officials compared conditions in the home to Collyer’s Mansion, a cluttered Fifth Avenue brownstone where the Collyer brothers were found dead in 1947 amid tons of junk, according to CBS 2 News. The term is now used to describe a home where the amount of trash and debris creates a danger to the occupants and to firefighters.
The cause of the Albertson fire is under investigation, CBS 2 News reports.