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Resident Killed in Fire, Home Destroyed

John Beck declared dead at the scene.

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Mendham resident John Beck was killed in a fire that destroyed his Woodland Road home late Sunday night. 

Beck, 65, was pronounced dead at the scene by Morris County Medical Examiner Doctor Ronald Suarez, according to the Morris County Prosecutor's Office.

The Morris County Prosecutor's Office Arson Unit, Major Crimes Unit, Morris County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations Section, Morris County Medical Examiners Office and the Mendham Township Police Department are all jointly investigating the incident, it said.

A preliminary determination shows the fire started in the kitchen, the prosecutor's office said.

Mendham Police responded to a report of smoke at 59 Woodland Road just midnight to find a house engulfed in flames, and the homeowner unaccounted for. 

“By the time we arrived, half the house was gone,” said one of the Mendham Borough officers on the scene. “I was unable to get inside.”

The first responders called out for the fire departments who arrived from Brookside and Ralston to set up master streams for a heavy attack. The fire worked fast and furious, tearing open the roof and belching fingers of flame into the sky. Despite the steady rain that was falling, the fire showed little signs of slowing.

A group of neighbors assembled to watch and police soon roped off the entire area from Old Brookside down to the reservoir to make room for the heavy equipment. No one was talking, and the tense looks of those entering and exiting the scene told a story all its own.

Within minutes, portions of the roof had begun to collapse. Finally, word from the site confirmed what the faces were telegraphing. The whereabouts of the homeowner were unknown.

Attempt to enter the home were suspended while efforts to contain the inferno were implemented. In the end, authorities estimated 60 percent of the structure was destroyed.

Beck lived alone, the prosecutor's office said.

This story is developing and there will be more to come as we have it.

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