Reporting Steve Sandberg
PATERSON, N.J. (CBS 2/ 1010 WINS) – An early morning fire that burned through four row houses in Paterson on Wednesday has left 35 people displaced.
Authorities said the four-alarm fire started at 130 North Main St., shortly after 6 a.m. and quickly spread to four buildings.
“We went in the hallways and saw the flames so we started banging on people’s doors and everybody basically left everything in the house,” Giovani Davis told CBS 2′s Christine Sloan.
The fire left Davis only with the pajamas she was wearing and nearly three-dozen residents homeless.
Davis lost everything she owns and has no renter’s insurance. But she said she’s thankful her neighbor on the second floor in a wheelchair made it out alive.
“He didn’t have time to get the wheelchair so he basically threw himself down the stairs. He has cut in his hands. He’s at St. Joseph’s hospital right now,” Davis said.
Police said there have been three fires at 130 North Main St., in the past month. A fire on Dec. 14 in the attic was ruled arson but no one was charged. The landlord told Sloan that fire started near a third-floor apartment where a tenant he’s been disputing with lived with her two children.
“Beginning of the month I took the lady to court for non-payment, not payment of the rent,” Nemat Yazdi said. “Today she was supposed to pay me the rent. She supposed to pay me my rent. She didn’t answer my phone call and this is what you see.”
Despite the veiled accusation, the official cause of Wednesday’s fire is still unknown, but firefighters said it started on the third floor and that the arson unit is investigating.
Fire officials also said the building and all the other ones engulfed in flames will more than likely have to come down.
“Two or three weeks ago the fire department was here kicking in the door at 3 o’clock, 4 o’clock in the morning trying to get everybody out of the house,” neighbor Justin Robins said. “Now, a couple of weeks later, right after New Year’s, we have this problem.”
Jose DeLeon watched in tears from across the street as his grocery went up in flames.
“It’s hard, very hard,” he told 1010 WINS’ Sandberg. “I’d rather be working right now.”
Fire Inspector Lou Iandoli said that the building was up-to-code and had well-kept smoke alarms.