DOVER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Firefighters were still on the scene of a massive fire Tuesday in New Jersey.
Several of Dover’s historic buildings were reduced to rubble by the blaze Monday.
No one was seriously hurt, but about 100 people were displaced, 40 permanently. One police officer suffered a minor injury.
“It seriously looks like the end of the world,” one witness said.
The smoke could be seen from miles away.
“When I was on my way over here, you could see the smoke,” said witness Lisa Allen. “I lived in Dover a long time. It’s sad, because all those people and the restaurants.”
Dover Mayor James Dodd said the fire started around 3:30 p.m. Monday in the basement of Barry’s Luncheonette on North Warren Street.
Hector Zanabria told CBS2 he spoke with the owner’s family.
“As soon as I picked them up and told them how they were, they started crying,” he said.
The mayor said five buildings were destroyed, along with six businesses, including restaurants and a notary on the first floor, and 14 apartments above.
“It’s amazing seeing my business just completely torn down, all the businesses around. It’s not easy to explain,” said Fabian Beltran, who owns La Notaria.
The owner said he knew people were still inside the apartments upstairs, so he rushed back in with fire and police.
“We ran into the building. There were four floors, I would say. And we all rushed all the way up and tried to get everybody out, even dogs,” he said.
Ashayla Rivera said all she has now are the clothes on her back and her school bag.
“I felt terrible and I also felt terrible for the firefighters,” she said.
Firefighters knocked on every single door to make sure everyone got out safely.
“This is the worst fire that I can remember. And I was born and raised in the town of Dover,” said Dodd. “It’s devastating to our community.”
Despite the damage, the mayor said he’s just grateful no one was seriously hurt.
“We’re very fortunate here in the town of Dover. I could have been much worse,” he said. “We have a lot to do in the cleanup efforts, we have a lot to do in helping the families and the businesses that are affected by this tragedy. But as a community, we’re here for them.”
The seven-alarm fire lasted for hours and was being fed by natural gas, the mayor said. More than 40 agencies helped battle the blaze, and many remained on the scene Tuesday. Drivers should expect street closures in the area.