Reporting Sean Adams
RAHWAY, NJ (AP / WCBS 880 / CBS 2) - Bright orange flames devoured the roof of a three-story condominium complex in Rahway and lit up the night sky while columns of gray smoke wafted over Route 1 and could be smelled for miles around.
The four-alarm fire that tore through the condominium complex on St. George Avenue, which was under construction and unoccupied, was brought under control late Tuesday morning.
“My husband and I came out and tried to look out our dining room windows and saw the building was illuminated,” resident Susan Palenik told CBS 2′s Christine Sloan.
The flames were so unbelievable neighbors grabbed their cameras.
“It was worth recording because I saw all the work put into the building and felt bad for all the laborers, all the time. They spent a year and a half working on that construction,” resident Emily Ortiz said.
Firefighters had a difficult time battling the flames because each top unit had its own attic. Knowing the building was empty, they just let the complex burn, shutting off water.
“During that time period we let the fire burn through and it turned out to be the correct move,” Rahway Fire Chief Bill Young said.
The arson unit was on the scene but investigators have not labeled it as a suspicious fire. The owner was unavailable for comment, but friends said he is devastated after struggling to build the complex.
Resident Janet Etlinger said there was a lot of protest over the complex.
“Yes, in the neighborhood there was, not for the building, for the traffic,” she said.
Fire officials said there was barely any electric in the building and the kitchens had not been placed in the units.
The fire started around 1:30 a.m. at the construction site along Route 27.
Route 27 was closed for hours between Hazelwood and West Grand Avenue while an estimated 100 fire fighters from 10 towns fought the blaze.
The condo complex takes up the area of a football field and neighbors said it was a hopeful sign of progress that has gone up in smoke.
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