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Firefighters Brave 5 Alarms, Brutal Heat Battling Passaic Apartment Building Blaze

Several Firefighters Treated For Heat Exhaustion, But Residents All Safe

PASSAIC, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Firefighters battled a 5-alarm fire Friday that tore through an apartment building.

The fire broke out just before 9 a.m. on the third floor of a building on Gregory Avenue. When firefighters arrived, residents were screaming for help from the windows and fire escapes, officials said.

Firefighters surrounded the building with ladder trucks and began dumping water on the blaze as large flames jumped through the roof. Part of the building partially collapsed.

FIrefighters pour water on a large fire in Passaic, NJ on May 31, 2013. (credit: CBS 2)

FIrefighters pour water on a large fire in Passaic, NJ on May 31, 2013. (credit: CBS 2)

The four-story building has 55 units and crews were forced to go inside to make multiple rescues, officials said.

Students at nearby Passaic High School were evacuated to Lincoln Middle School and School 11 as a precaution.

Andrea Vizcaino said she was asleep inside her apartment when she heard a knock on her door.

“My dog started barking and they said come out and I see everybody outside,” she told CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell.

Passaic Fire Chief Patrick Trentacost Sr. said all of the residents in the building and the nine adjacent buildings have been accounted for.

“Luckily everybody is out. There was no casualties,” Mayor Alex Blanco told WCBS 880’s Jim Smith.

But with temperatures hovering around 90 degrees, Trentacost said several firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion.

Firefighters on the scene of large fire in Passaic, NJ on Friday, May 31, 2013. (credit: Steve Sandberg/1010 WINS)

Firefighters on the scene of large fire in Passaic, NJ on Friday, May 31, 2013. (credit: Steve Sandberg/1010 WINS)

“They are dropping like flies from the heat,” he told 1010 WINS Steve Sandberg.

“It’s one of the worst days to have a fire,” Blanco told CBS 2’s Burrell.

Blanco assisted displaced neighbors at a nearby senior center many who were exhausted and visibly overwhelmed, Burrell reported.

Fire crews from 10 other towns also responded to help battle the blaze.

Residents lost their possessions but said they were simply grateful everyone survived, and for the firefighters who helped save them.

“There’s so much heat and for them to try to stop the fire and do whatever they can in this heat, I’m grateful,” said resident Kimberly Sabando.

Thirty-one of the 32 units in the building were occupied and were all affected by the fire. The Red Cross was assisting 31 families — 107 people in total.

Although the building is a total loss, all of the firefighters were expected to be fine, Burrell reported.

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