A Rockaway Township community of friends and family, are pooling together to help Brent Decker who lost his wife and son in a house fire.
ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP — Brent Decker lost everything Friday morning when a 2-alarm house fire claimed his Green Pond Road home and the lives of his wife and son, friends and family members say. Thomas A. Zelante, a first assistant prosecutor with the Morris County Prosecutor's Office, confirmed that two people had died in the Friday morning fire, but did not release their names. He said the fire did not appear to be suspicious. Witnesses, family and friends, however, say Pamela Decker, 58, and Daniel Decker, 17, died in the fast-moving blaze, which started before 6 a.m. Shannon Koeppel, 19, and her boyfriend, 21-year-old Garrett Burnette, were driving down Green Pond Road on their way to McDonald's Friday morning when they saw the house fire. Koeppel said her family has known the Deckers for years and the couple had no choice but to stop and try to help. "It was one of the worst things I've ever seen," Burnette said. As they arrived on the scene, Brent Decker lay near the front door nearly overcome by smoke, the couple said. His brother, Craig, said Brent Decker had slept downstairs that night, and was able to escape from the home after first trying to go upstairs to get his wife. Burnette said Brent Decker told him Daniel Decker tried to go upstairs to get his mother, but never came out. "Nothing's going to stop you from going to get your mom," Burnette said. In an effort to try and help, Burnette said, he ran across the street to Lake Telemark Pizzeria to grab a ladder near the business, then hoisted it to the second floor. Burnette said he tried to get into the second-floor window, but was unable to open it, so he climbed back down and grabbed a rock. After smashing the window open, Burnette said, he was overcome by the smoke and unable to get inside. Firefighters arrived on the scene shortly after and the couple moved across the street with Brent Decker, who sat watching the fire consume his house, the couple said. Since there are no fire hydrants in that section of the township, tanker trucks were dispatched to draw water in order to fight the fire, fire officials on the scene said. Koeppel said Daniel Decker had planned to go into the military, and that the death of the Deckers "broke my heart." Koeppel said she tried to comfort Brent Decker however she could. She gave hm her cellphone, which he used to call his brother, and later put her jacket around him." "He was just sitting there in the snow and no one was comforting him," Koeppel said. "So I went over to him and I told him to squeeze my hand." Emergency personnel tried to get Brent Decker to leave the scene, Koeppel said, but he wouldn't leave until the bodies of his wife and son were removed from the home. Zelante did not refer to any of the three people living in the home by name, but said the surviving member of the household was taken to St. Clare's Hospital. The extent of Brent Decker's injuries was unknown. Nina Sinder, who works at Good to Go Deli just down the street from the home, said she's known the Deckers for years and grieves for the loss. Daniel Decker, she said, was a regular and used to pick up a Taylor ham, egg and Swiss cheese before walking to the bus stop. Brent Decker "lost everything within 15 minutes," Sinder said. "His family, his house, everything. I'm sorry for the community. We lost some nice people." James Jencarelli, superintendent of Morris Knolls Regional District, announced the death of Daniel Decker, a senior at Morris Knolls High School, in a media release Friday. Jencarelli said the teen was involved in the Boy Scouts, the Junior Statesmen of America, and fencing, and was working with a recruiter to join a branch of the military following his graduation in June. He also had a passion for history and politics, Jencarelli said. "On behalf of the Morris Hills Regional District, we are deeply saddened by the loss of Dan," Jencarelli said. "Our support, as well as our prayers, are with him, his family, his many friends and the Morris Knolls community through this difficult time." Grief counseling will be held at the Morris Knolls High School Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Jencarelli said. "We're trying to do everything we can to help out the community," Jencarelli said. In a statement from acting Morris County Prosecutor Fredric Knapp, he thanked the Rockaway Township Fire Department, Rockaway Township Police Department, Rockaway Borough Fire Department, Picatinny Arsenal Fire Department, St. Clare’s Emergency Medical Services, the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Section, and the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Arson Unit for services rendered at the scene. Brent Decker, currently unemployed, has nothing but the clothes on his back. Many local residents have assembled a small clothing drive to assist with his immediate needs, though funds for funeral expenses for his wife Pam and son Daniel are non existent. Your help will be greatly appreciated.