Overnight Fire Destroys Several Businesses, Apartments

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Firefighters are still putting out hot spots after a massive fire overnight in Jersey City.

The fire broke out just before 12:30 a.m Friday at 333 Central Avenue, authorities said. It then spread quickly to two other buildings, destroying a passport shop, a party supply store and half a dozen apartments.

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“These are older structures. They’re attached and once fire gets pretty good headway, it’s pretty difficult to contain,” said Jersey City Fire Department Chief Darren Rivers. “It’s extremely hazardous and hot fire conditions.”

Witnesses said they awoke to sirens and a stunning scene. At one point the fire was so intense, it could be seen shooting out of windows. One of the buildings also collapsed.

“It looked bad,” said witness Michael Schmidt. “I came here when that building started to collapse, pieces started falling off the building and stuff like that.”

“It was just flames, a lot of fire,” said witness Chris Fermin. “They kept putting out the fire, but it kept coming back.”

“Saw the building fell down, couldn’t believe it,” said witness Anthony Nobriga.

Firefighters had to call for backup five times to keep the stubborn flames at bay. What was left behind is a smoldering mess.

Yohan Chang owns the produce store where the fire is believed to have started.

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“I don’t know what happened. It’s very, very sad for me,” Chang told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown. “That’s how I make a living, but now I have — I don’t know what I’m going to do now.”

Michael Yun has owned the building for 30 years and said there’s never been a hint of danger. He watched stunned as his building crumbled.

“It’s not easy,” he said. “When you own something 30 years, when you see it’s burning down, it hurts a lot.”

A Rite Aid on the corner was also damaged, but firefighters say it can be salvaged.

Both 333 and 335 Central Avenue will be demolished. There were several apartments on upper floors, but residents inside managed to get out safely. No injuries were reported.

The Red Cross is helping displaced residents with temporary housing. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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