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Stubborn Blaze Displaces Dozens In Union City

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UNION CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Dozens of people in Union City were forced into the bitter cold by a 6-alarm fire Thursday night.

The fire began in one residential apartment building on 19th Street around 11:30 p.m. and quickly spread to two adjacent buildings.

“The fire just kept on, and kept on, and didn’t want to stop,” resident Amanda Deleon told CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell.

Firefighters battled the stubborn fire well into Friday. Flames were still visible at 6 a.m. and Union City firefighters dealt with hotspots through part of the afternoon.

Approximately 60 residents, some wearing nothing more than robes and pajamas, were evacuated to a school that the Red Cross set up as a temporary shelter.

“We have a lot of poor families that live in this building,” said Mayor Brain Stack. “It’s going to be tough.”

The bitter cold also affected the responding firefighters. Frigid temperatures quickly turned the water used to fight the flames into ice, leaving ice-covered ladders and icicles hanging from powers lines.

“They’re getting wet with the windchill factor, so we have to rotate more personnel,” North Hudson Regional Fire Deputy Chief Michael Cranwell told WCBS 880’s Levon Putney around midday Friday. “And there’s still stubborn pockets of fire in the rear and because the roof is collapsing, it would be unsafe to send our firefighting personnel inside.”

Firefighters on the scene at what was a 6-alarm fire in Union City, Jan. 24, 2014 (credit: Levon Putney/WCBS 880)

Firefighters on the scene at what was a 6-alarm fire in Union City, Jan. 24, 2014 (credit: Levon Putney/WCBS 880)

Firefighters from neighboring Jersey City and Bayonne pitched in.

“A very stubborn fire, very cold conditions,” North Hudson Regional Fire Chief Frank Montagne told Burrell. “But everyone got out safe, which is a good thing.”

The three buildings were completely destroyed, Burrell reported. Officials said the main concern now is that the center building could possibly collapse under the weight of the water and ice.

Three firefighters suffered minor injuries. Officials have not determined what sparked the fire.

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