Byram mourns resident killed in Cranberry Lake fire

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:48

    BYRAM-A Byram resident was buried this week following a fatal fire, May 13, at his home in the Cranberry Lakes section of the township. Officials are still investigating the fire that claimed the life of Charles "Chuck" Chittenden, 59, a week ago early Friday evening on Spruce Trail. The man's widow, Helen Chittenden, said she arrived home to find the fire and her husband lying on the floor. Helen Chittenden said her husband showed no signs of life when she unsuccessfully tried to pull him out of the one-story dwelling. Charles Chittenden used oxygen tanks to breathe and had been on disability because of ill health for the past several months, his wife said. Several of the oxygen tanks exploded as the flames engulfed the home before neighbors could arrive on the scene to help. Fire personnel from Netcong, Stanhope, Andover Borough and Andover and Green townships joined Byram officials at the scene. One firefighter was taken to the hospital with heat exhaustion and later released. No other injuries were reported. A day later, a Byram man was arrested for impersonating an officer at the scene of the fire. Howard Vanderbilt, 55, was taking pictures of the charred residence after walking under the yellow caution tape that had closed off the Chittenden home to onlookers. Vanderbilt and another man, who were both dressed in military style pants with T-shirts that had "State Police" logos emblazoned on them, crossed onto the bordered-off property and started taking photos. Fire officials had returned to the scene to retrieve any equipment that had been left behind Friday evening. Vanderbilt and the other man then pulled up in a Ford Crown Victoria, got out of the car and lifted up the yellow tape that carried the "Fire Scene n Do Not Cross" warning. Police said the firemen advised the two men to leave the property, but Vanderbilt said, "It's OK, I'm with the State Police and I need to take a few pictures," police said. Vanderbilt, who lives across Cranberry Lake on Birch Road, continued taking pictures before finally leaving the scene of the fire. After he had left, a fire official who knew Vanderbilt was not with the police, alerted authorities. Vanderbilt was later arrested and charged with fourth-degree impersonating a police officer and a disorderly persons charge of defiant trespass, police said. He was released without bail pending a hearing in municipal court, police said. The identity of the second man was not known nor was the reason for Vanderbilt to be taking photographs. Born in Detroit, Charles Chittenden lived in Budd Lake before moving to Byram 10 years ago. He was employed as a driver with American Vending in Mount Freedom for eight years before retiring in 2004. He also had been a professional guitar player for many years. A veteran of the Navy during the Vietnam conflict, Chittenden was a member of the American Legion Musconetcong Post 278 and the Church Alive in Randolph, where he met Helen in 1994. He played guitar on a Praise and Worship Team and she sang in the choir. They were married that same year. Chittenden also is survived by his stepdaughter, Roxanne Simpson, and her friend, Victor Joyner, of Byram; stepdaughter, Jennifer Qualtieri, and her husband, John Qualtieri, of Galloway, and three grandchildren, Joshua, Joseph, and Kerstyn Simpson. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Byram Township Fire Department, 225 Route 206, P.O. Box 361, Andover, N.J. 07821.