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Neighbors Speak Out About Springfield, NJ Fire That Claimed Resident’s Life

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By Robin Rieger

SPRINGFIELD, NJ (CBS) – Investigators are looking through the burnt-out shell of Larry Metzger’s Springfield Township home, where his body was found in the basement by a NJ State Police K-9 unit shortly before noon on Tuesday.

The fire broke out late Monday afternoon, quickly engulfing the home and catching the attention of neighbor Chelsea Puca, who spotted it, yelled to nearby family members, then called 911.

“The window just lit up with flames; I was like, ‘Did that really just happen?’” Puca said.

Jeff Callahan, who shot video of the fire on his cell phone, along with Puca’s father and another neighbor, responded.

“We looked up, heard almost like a minor pop, an explosion of some sort, ran across to the home to see if we could help out. ‘Larry, are you in there?!’ We were screaming, yelling–there was no response. As we went to the deck to see if we could peek in the door, the whole back of the house was just ablaze,” Callahan recounted.

“The more they wanted to go in the house, the more the flames were coming towards the doors,” Puca said.

Metzger’s wife and son were at the store at the time, but when called by neighbors, she said her husband was home. The men couldn’t get into the house, but did manage to get into Metzger’s garage and bring his four Pontiac GTO’s out onto the lawn.

“At least that prevented possibly gasoline from exploding,” said Callahan.

“We’re saddened by the loss of one of our members; Larry was with us for 11 years,” said Springfield Fire Company Chief Brian Kokotajlo.

Metzger was a past president and volunteer with the Springfield Fire Company that responded to his home Monday. The Plainsboro Fire District says Metzger served as a president from 1992-1994.

Neighbor Ralph says he saw Metzger shortly before the fire started.

“I said, ‘Hi Larry, how you doing?’ He was power-washing his sidewalk; he did that for a couple of hours,” Puca remembered.

The New Jersey State Police Arson/Bomb Unit, as well as State and Burlington County fire marshals, are investigating the cause. An autopsy was performed on Metzger on Tuesday.

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