Family and friends say a New Jersey mother killed in a house fire Friday spent her last moments running into the flames to save her child.

Jacqueline Montanaro, 40, was able to escape the fire but soon realized her 6-year-old daughter Madelyn was still inside the family’s Hazlet house, CBS New York reports. She ran back inside amid the thick smoke, but both perished. 

William Montanaro, the woman’s husband, and their 8-year-old daughter Elena were able to escape. 

“Jackie was a hero,” Montanaro said in a statement posted on Twitter. “Without hesitation Jackie then charged in with a mothers love and the courage of a police officer fueling her attempt to save our daughter.” 

William and Jacqueline Montanero with their two children.


Jacqueline Montanaro was a Custom and Border Protection officer.

CBS New York also reports that the family’s dog Duchess died in the fire. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but officials said it does not appear to be suspicious.

A GoFundMe has been set up for the family and a vigil will be held Tuesday.