It was worse than a catfight.
A New Jersey woman’s fight against eviction ended in a deadly blaze Wednesday when she intentionally started a fire in the home she shared with dozens of cats and refused to evacuate.
The woman and dozens of cats died in the massive fire, which broke out shortly after 11 a.m. in Roosevelt, authorities said.
State police had served the unidentified woman an eviction notice but she refused to leave and threatened to blow up the house.
“We’re getting reports that the resident turned on the gas of the residence prior to igniting,” New Jersey State Police Lt. Lawrence Peele said, according to CBS News.
Neighbors were evacuated while police had a standoff with the woman. Multiple fire departments responded to the home but were unable to get the woman out alive. No other injuries were reported.
“They knocked on our door this morning. Thank God it was a pretty loud knock. I grabbed [my son]. They told us to leave. She was threatening with a bomb or to bomb the house and ended up with a fire,” one neighbor, Erin Luca, told the outlet.
The woman was the sole occupant of the house, located on Cedar Court. The once cat-filled home is now completely charred and an attached home is unlivable.
Emma Quackenbush, who lived in the attached unit for 22 years, told New Jersey 101.5 she had lost everything in the fire.
“It looks like my house is gone. It’s still standing but it’s not livable,” Quackenbush said.
Other neighbors gathered outside the scorched residence told the radio station that the woman’s boyfriend had been trying to evict her for several years, but his efforts were hindered temporarily by Gov. Phil Murphey’s pandemic-era eviction moratorium.
Roosevelt Mayor Peggy Malkin told the Asbury Park Press that the woman was a pet sitter and had built a “cat house” for the animals to live in separately. It’s unclear how many cats perished in the flames.
PSE&G was excavating at the scene overnight as authorities continue to investigate. Officials are asking people to stay away from the home as its structure is not secure.