From the New York Times:
ENGLEWOOD, N.J., Aug. 30 — A four-alarm fire tore through a three-story wood house on James Street here on Wednesday, killing two residents who, the authorities said, were living in illegal basement apartments. A tenant in a third basement apartment was critically injured.
The fire started around 3:40 a.m., said Chief Robert Moran of the Englewood Fire Department, and the flames quickly spread to the first and second floors of the house. In all, 14 people were in the house at the time of the fire, and most were members of the family that owns the property, Chief Moran said.
Chief Moran said that the basement had been divided into individual units, but that the city’s planning office had no record of permits being issued to the owner, Oscar Cortes, for the work. Deputy Chief Arthur O’Keefe of the Englewood Police Department said charges were likely to be filed against Mr. Cortes for illegal units. Arson investigators said the fire was accidental, but they had not determined how it started.
A shortage of low-cost housing has become a growing problem in Bergen County, and illegal conversions are becoming more common, Bergen County officials said. Mayor Michael Wildes of Englewood said that in recent years the growing number of illegal immigrants moving into the city had led landlords to capitalize on the situation.
“It is a tremendous challenge in our nation and in our city where people with economic challenges are forced into these situations,” Mr. Wildes said.
He said that he did not know how many illegal units Englewood had but that the city had been increasing inspections in recent months.
“Any landlord that profits or benefits from situations like this should be prosecuted,” he said.