PASSAIC, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — More than a dozen families were forced out of their homes after a warehouse fire spread to nearby apartments in Passaic, New Jersey.
Cell phone video of the blaze, which broke out just after 10 p.m. Monday, shows flames and smoke billowing from the warehouse on First Street as it burned for three hours.
Passaic Mayor Hector Lora arrived on scene and took to Facebook, warning residents to take precaution.
“Close your windows, make sure it’s not getting into your house,” he said. “The smoke is obviously right now one of the biggest challenges.”
Food products were being stored in the warehouse along with propane tanks, which posed a hazard to firefighters working to drown out the flames.
As the fire spread, the roof of the warehouse collapsed and the flames traveled to a neighboring apartment building facing Market Street. All 13 units were evacuated.
“The five in the back of the building did have fire damage, those were the one right next to where the fire was coming out,” Fire Chief Joseph Cajzer said. “Those apartments are a little worse damage but again, the sprinklers did a good job of keeping the fire in check.”
Resident Elder Antoine and his seven family members slept on cots inside of the Passaic senior center along with their neighbors.
“We grabbed everybody and left everything in the house,” Antoine said. “I went down the stairs and I looked and the house was covered in smoke.”
Christian Manzanres lives in an apartment with 12 of his family members. They all ran out of the burning building.
“I’m scared because I have a cat still in there I’m worried about him,” Manzanres said.
The fire was brought under control after about three hours, tenants in the neighboring apartment were rushed out with at least five units badly damaged.
Two firefighters had minor injuries.
The Red Cross says it is helping 50 people with temporary lodging, food and clothing.
The surrounding five blocks in the neighborhood were without electricity.
The fire department said families who were displaced should be able to return thanks to the sprinkler system, but it will be a few days before they can do so.
The cause of the fire does not appear suspicious, but it is under investigation.