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Fire Rips Through Orange Apartment Complex

Orange, N.J. fire. (credit: CBS 2)

Orange, N.J. fire. (credit: CBS 2)

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ORANGE, N.J. (CBS 2/1010 WINS) — Flames consumed four buildings of an apartment complex in Orange, New Jersey on Sunday. Firefighters were still struggling to control flare-ups late Sunday night, while more than 100 people were forced to find a place to stay.

The five-story brick building getting blasted with water was connected to three buildings just like it, and the fire spread to all of them, reports CBS 2’s Dave Carlin.

“The whole top floor is gone, and it’s still burning after 12 hours of standing here,” Orange resident Sylvia Odonkor said.

At about 8 a.m. Sunday morning, flames erupted at the building at 399 Lincoln Avenue. The five-alarm fire spread from a corner apartment on the top floor and traveled across the top of the complex, shaped like an “H”, until every corner was burning.

The sidewalks were crowded with residents of the 96 apartment units, with some in bathrobes and others in church clothes.

“It’s bad, it’s really bad,” resident Bernard Pierre said.

“People don’t have no insurance, they don’t have any other place to stay,” another resident said.

The Red Cross set up cots in the gym at Orange High School one block away. Seventy displaced families were fed, and many of them will stay there for the night.

It was a tough, tiring battle for firefighters, who initially encountered water pressure problems. They also had the time-consuming task of uncovering hidden hot spots deep inside walls.

“The visual fire is only one part,” Orange Mayor Eldridge Hawkins, Jr. said. “Then there is all the smoke, and then they have to get inside and look into the walls and the ceilings to make sure that there’s not any ambers that may spark the flame up again.”

The roof of the building is now gone, and flare-ups continued late into the night. Fire investigators say it is still too early to know the exact cause of the stubborn blaze.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)