JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A block was left in darkness and devastation on Wednesday night after a fire tore through a row of homes earlier in the day, displacing 10 families.
As CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis reported, the blaze reached four alarms at one point. Many of the residents were at school and work when the fire broke out at 27 Belmont Ave., which is part of a series of 12 row houses, each four stories high, in the Bergen Hill section of Jersey City.
“Somebody just called me and told me the block was on fire,” said neighbor Angela Fitch. “This is bad. This is bad.”
The blaze started in one building. As the fire spread up, it then went sideways, igniting several other buildings, fire officials said.
The thick plume of smoke could be seen all over the area, 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported.
Fitch said she rushed home from work to find the fire raging on her block. But thankfully, no one was injured, although fire officials said three people had to be rescued from the roof of a rear porch.
“Basically, just put a ladder up and assist them down from that one-story roof — no injuries to firefighters or civilians,” Fire Department Chief Darren Rivers said.
Rivers told WCBS 880’s Levon Putney there was “heavy fire venting from the first floor window as well as the main entryway.”
“We have our arson investigation unit, they’ll do a thorough investigation to find out where exactly it started and how it started,” Fire Director Armando Roman told reporters, including 1010 WINS’ Al Jones.
Firefighters had to make a so-called trench cut in the roof to keep the fire from spreading. As of 3:30 p.m., crews had stopped the fire from spreading any further, Putney reported.
Overhead video from Chopper 2 HD showed a partial roof collapse in the buildings, but, thankfully, no injuries.
Still, the losses were staggering. Members of the Johnson family were among the first to step into their home, two doors down from the building where the fire started, to find it gutted.
Tanisha Johnson had been told the fire didn’t reach the family’s house, but crews had busted out the windows and torn the roof open.
There was a hole in the ceiling, and smoke and water damage throughout. All the Johnsons could salvage was a couple of suitcases – minus something very important.
“It’s horrible,” said Danasia Johnson, 16. “My prom’s tomorrow. I have no dress. I have nothing.”
Tanisha Johnson said the loss was devastating.
“I’m more upset for her than for myself, you know?” she said. “She’s in school and she has no idea and I have a little one as well, 8-year-old and they don’t know. I don’t want to tell them yet.”
But that particular story had a happy ending. After CBS 2 told Danasia’s story on the 6 p.m. news, a Good Samaritan called with dresses ready to donate within minutes.
Kathy Ciarelli said the dresses were “properly covered, no dust — and it’s a shame, beautiful girls deserve to be in beautiful dresses.”
Ciarelli and her husband, of Jackson, N.J., saw the fire on television and drove to Jersey City, with several dresses in different sizes and colors.
And Danasia and her mom could not be more appreciative.
“I am thankful for people who actually care enough to come down,” Danasia said. “I’m grateful and very thankful for that.”
“My main concern was her and the prom only because it’s so now,” her mother added, “and now this brings it all together, and it’s touching, and I thank you.”
The American Red Cross was assisting all the displaced families with hotel rooms on Wednesday night. It could be months before many are allowed back home.
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