PASSAIC, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Flames tore through an apartment building in New Jersey overnight, leaving two dozen people without a home.
Video showed flames and smoke pouring out of the roof of the building near 4th and Essex streets around 4 a.m. after the fire started on the third floor.
“I woke up, I saw my neighbors screaming, and I couldn’t figure out why they were screaming. When I come outside, I see a whole lot of fire — big fireball,” one neighbor told CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge.
Spent the first snow of the season, with Passaic NJ Firefighters who rescued several people from a burning building early this morning. Everyone got out ok, but now 25 residents are displaced during a pandemic, storm and the holidays. @CBSNewYork pic.twitter.com/B5TNq23gAo
— Natalie Duddridge (@NatDuddridgeTV) December 17, 2020
One hundred firefighters from Passaic, Paterson, Clifton and Bergen County all responded, complicated by the storm conditions.
“Multiple rescues were made. We had a firefighter get involved in a rear building collapse. He’s at St. Joe’s Medical Center in Paterson,” Fire Chief Patrick Trentacost said.
Several other firefighters were treated for minor injuries due to slips and falls on the snow and ice.
Two women were rescued and take to St. Mary’s Hospital.
About 25 people were temporarily moved to City Hall by the Red Cross, including Eddie Garcia whose family lost everything.
“My brother saved a lot of lives. He was the one that saved everybody from the whole building,” he said.
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Residents will be moved to hotels and provided with food and clothing.
“Especially in these days — COVID-19, Christmas around the corner,” said neighbor Omar Aristi.
“Certainly it’s a tragedy. As we go into the buildings, we see Christmas presents. This time of year is tough,” Trentacost added.
Fire officials said the fire is not considered suspicious, but they are investigating how the third floor apartment was being heated.
They reminded people not to use stovetops or ovens to warm their homes.