ELIZABETH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A teenage girl was killed and several others injured as a five-alarm fire tore through an apartment building in Elizabeth, N.J. this weekend.
As CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported, the rooming house on William Street with as many 10 units inside suddenly became fully engulfed in flames around 10 p.m. Saturday night. Two people were trapped up on the third floor, and the inferno was so merciless that even the fire department could not get up to rescue them.
The fire ended up causing the center of the structure to collapse. The remains of the house were demolished Sunday.
“We raised ladders, stretched numerous hose lines to try to beat back the flames. Unfortunately, we were not able to enter due to the heavy fire conditions,” Elizabeth deputy chief Lathey Wirkus told CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell.
A teenage girl inside the third floor was unable to escape. She perished in the blaze.
The boyfriend of the victim said she was 17 and was preparing to graduate from high school.
Ramaz Asaad said his girlfriend was staying at his apartment while he was at work. He said she called him from inside the apartment screaming for help.
“She called me when I was working. She told me there’s a fire in the house, in the kitchen, down the stairs. I told her go from the door outside. Just jump, just jump from the window or go from the door or something,” Asaad told Burrell. “She was screaming ‘please come, come, come.’ She’s coughing inside.”
Asaad said it took firefighters hours to make their way into the building.
The woman’s body was found around 12:30 a.m.
A man in his 60s, also on the third floor, was determined to get out no matter what.
“A male jumped out of the window onto the ground,” Wirkus said.
He survived, but his condition was not known Sunday evening.
The rooming house was torn down just hours later, as neighbors watched and recalled a haunting scene.
Witnesses described the plight of the young woman trapped in the unforgiving fire.
“She was in the window hollering, scared to jump,” a witness said.
It took about 100 firefighters four hours to beat down the flames. Two other nearby buildings were also damaged in the fire.
A man who lives in one of the damaged building was left with an uninhabitable home. He described seeing the owner of the burning boarding house at the scene in the middle of the night.
“A couple of tenants were yelling at him,” the neighbor said. “I don’t know why.”
When asked if the fatal fire was suspicious, a police source said authorities do not know.
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