WESTFIELD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A raging fire tore through a strip mall in Westfield on Monday.
The blaze began around 11:30 a.m. at the back of a nail salon and karate studio on South Avenue, officials said.
CBS 2 captured video of a massive fireball exploding over the shopping center, knocking two firefighters to the ground.
A bystander and another firefighter assisted the men who fell, CBS 2’s Matt Kozar reported.
“They were treated and released from the hospital, cleared to return to duty,” said Westfield fire Chief Daniel Kelly.
Officials said the explosion came from the nail salon, which was packed with chemicals and rags, firefighters’ worst nightmare. And that wasn’t the only issue they faced: There were water-pressure problems with the hydrants, plus the heat and humidity.
Kelly said the fire companies ventilated the one-story structure, but couldn’t do it fast enough.
“The high heat and gases get trapped up in the void space called the common cockloft,” Kelly explained. “And if they aren’t vented out quickly enough, they reach an emission point, where they flash over.”
On Labor Day, business owners who have worked so hard to build something were left picking up the charred pieces. Five of the eight occupancies sustained significant damage.
The pizzeria Hassan Diwane has owned for 20 years was left unscathed.
While he said he’s thankful he didn’t have damage and that no one was seriously hurt, he said he still feels the suffering of his fellow business owners.
“I feel so bad, especially for the nail salon,” he said. “They just opened. Not even a year.”
Kelly said 80 firefighters battled the blaze.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
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