JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A large fire tore through two apartment buildings in Jersey City Monday, killing one person.
According to CBS 2′s Jim Smith, the fire on the 600 block of Bramhall Avenue started in one three-story building and quickly spread to an adjoining building.
1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports
The fire broke out shortly after noon and grew to four alarms.
There was no immediate word on what started the fire, but residents said the two buildings had no power since Superstorm Sandy hit. Utility crews were on the block working to restore power, residents told 1010 WINS.
Witnesses said flames erupted after they saw sparks on a pole where a cable crew had hooked up a generator to make repairs, 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reported.
“It started on the pole,” one woman said. “Two wires came apart and hit the house.”
“There was a generator that they were trying to power up and repair the cable,” landlord Matt Lusky said. “The generator backed up and there was an explosion in between the two buildings; instantaneously both houses burned up.”
Residents said the blaze started just moments after power was restored.
“They turned the power on and the damn thing blew up,” one resident told CBS 2′s Derricke Dennis.
The side of one of the buildings is gone, Dennis reported.
“It’s terrible. Terrible. Don’t you think they have enough sense? The power’s ready to get turned on, they got generators running with gasoline all over the place. You didn’t think something was going to happen?” displaced resident Duane Springer told Dennis.
Nearly 50 people who lived in the two buildings were said to have no place to live.
“As soon as everything came on, the wire just popped and it hit the building,” Theresa Tutten told Dennis.
An 80-year-old man was killed in the fire, which broke out just before noon. The man had been boiling water to stay warm when the fire broke out, Dennis reported.
The victim’s son said he is heartbroken.
“I’m hurt, I’m stung, I’m hurt,” Anthaworn Sims told Dennis.
The fire also injured at least four firefighters. One was carried away on a stretcher after falling at least three stories between the buildings, officials said.
Jersey City’s fire director said an investigation had been launched looking into whether a power surge sparked the fire.
“I can’t confirm that but by the same token, some blocks have power, the other side doesn’t so they may have had power. But it doesn’t mean that that particular building had power at the time of the fire,” Jersey City Fire Director Armando Roman said.
The Red Cross was assisting the residents who were left homeless, despite surviving a week without power and heat.
Residents who lost their homes and everything inside were left helpless and speechless Monday evening.
“Right now I am numb. I don’t know anything to say right now, I’m just numb,” Janice Hines told Dennis.
PSE&G and fire officials remained on the scene as of Monday evening. Both were investigating what may have sparked the fire.
Fire officials recommend that residents should unplug and turn off all appliances in a power outage to prevent a potentially dangerous power surge.