BOUND BROOK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Firefighters in Bound Brook, N.J. are still putting out hotspots many hours after a devastating fire destroyed three buildings and damaged a fourth.
Two apartment complexes under construction, a rooming house and an electronics store are some of the buildings that are now a total loss, reports CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas.
Witnesses say the fire spread very quickly, consuming two blocks of West Main Street for hours on Sunday night. The fire is yet another blow to a town that has been trying for years to rebuild.
“They were so high, just high,” said Joel Orlik of the flames. “It looked like it was coming out of, like, an action movie.”
Cell phone video shows an intense fireball. Authorities say the wind sent burning embers as far away as across the river. The flames were so strong it registered on weather radar.
“It seemed fake how big this was. It was almost like a movie production, and everything started collapsing. The facades started dropping. It was impressive,” said witness Eric Daybek.
“Literately within a minute of getting the warning, it was just a fireball. As high as you could see, raging hundreds of feet into the air,” witness Larry Lapczynski said. “After the fire started on the south side of Main Street – the really big new complex – it jumped over the street, because of all the embers and everything, and caught another new apartment complex that was being built directly the opposite side of the street.”
Around 8 p.m. Sunday, neighbors watching in disbelief as a large fireball gained intensity. First responders had to contend with the finds fueling the flames causing it to spread quickly. But that was not the biggest concern.
“It was all lightweight wood. Both buildings were still studded. There was not sheetrock to the buildings, so it made more of a fire load,” said Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Gullia.
Larry Myrick was among the handful of residents forced to evacuate, and it will be days before he can return for fears that buildings that surround his home could collapse. Seeing what’s left is difficult.
“It hurts my heart,” said Myrick. “It puts tears in my eyes.”
Work was not underway at the construction sites when the fire broke out. As for the apartment complex, firefighters went door to door to ensure everyone got out safely.
“It was a tower of flames in both buildings. And it’s just devastating,” said Mayor Bob Fazen.
No one was seriously injured despite the dangerous conditions that were believed to have started at one of the apartment buildings under construction. Sheetrock and sprinklers had not been installed yet.
“It’s a problem for firefighting,” said Deputy Fire Chief Richard Colombaroni. “It’s not very durable. It burns quickly. It’s unsafe for firefighters once it’s on fire. It’s a worst-case scenario once it’s still under construction without any fire protection.”
For a small town, Bound Brook has already had its share of heartbreak. Local leaders say the response this time will be no different.
“Bound Brook will recover. We’re used to these kind of things,” Fazen said.
The city, once known for devastating floods, is in the midst of a revitalization. Thousands of new apartment units and businesses like those proposed at the Mosaic on Main are set to be built.
While there’s hope for renewal, this incident highlights the potential dangers. One firefighter sustained a minor injury to his ankle.
.@ATF_Newark Certified Fire Investigators/ Special Agents are providing assistance to the Somerset County Fire Investigators in Bound Brook, NJ with determining the cause and origin of a multi-alarm fire. pic.twitter.com/57HlEC4WtE
— ATF Newark (@ATF_Newark) January 13, 2020
Investigators including some from the ATF are working to determine what caused the fire. Somerset County Prosecutor’s office is leading the investigation.
1/2: Raritan Valley Line service has resumed between Bridgewater and Dunellen following an earlier to 6-alarm structure fire near NJ TRANSIT tracks in Bound Brook. Bound Brook Rail station will be closed the entire service day, Monday, January 13th.
— Raritan Valley Line (@NJTRANSIT_RVL) January 13, 2020
The Bound Brook rail station was closed Monday due to the blaze. Meantime, authorities say roadblocks in this area could last for days.