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Woodbury fire victims identified

November 19, 2008 3:08:23 PM PST
54-year-old Nancy Johnson Epple was killed after fire broke out in her historic Gloucester County home. The fast moving house fire broke out at 12:45 a.m. on the 100 block of Delaware Street near N. Jackson Street in Woodbury, New Jersey.

Woodbury police officers who responded to the fire scene attempted to enter the front door of the large Victorian home, but it was blocked by debris.

One of the officers sustained cuts to a hand attempting to force the door open and he required stitches. Another officer used a ladder in the yard to reach a second floor window where the husband, identified as 55-year-old Dr. Lawrence Epple, was seen in the house. The ladder did not reach the window and both the officer and Epple fell during the rescue attempt.

Epple was transported by ambulance to Cooper University Hospital where he is listed in serious condition. Both officers were treated at Underwood-Memorial Hospital in Woodbury.

Dr. Epple is a prominant Woodbury pediatrician, and his wife Nancy was his office manager. Neighbors tell Action News that the couple collected antiques, which may have added fuel to the fire.

On Wednesday, friends remembered the Epples as a wonderful couple.

"He was funny. He had always worn the Mickey Mouse tie, or the Tigger tie, makes the children laugh," said one woman who knew them.

Friends say the couple did not have children, but dedicated their lives to helping them.

We're also told there was a fire at the same address about 8 months ago. In that instance, a painter using a blow torch ignited the wooden structure.

The couple had just finished repairing the previous fire damage while renovating when flames struck the home again.

An autopsy on Nancy Johnson Epple revealed she died of smoke and soot inhalation.

The Gloucester County Prosecutors Office has determined the cause of the fire to be from a series of extended electrical cords that had overheated. They also say the house had no smoke alarms.

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