(JERSEY CITY) – The fire tore through the row houses along Belmont Avenue in Jersey City while many residents were at work Wednesday.
Those who were at home escaped with their lives and could do nothing more except watch, “It spread pretty fast. I don’t know when it started but all I know they said just to get out,” said Diane Hill.
Tisha Georgia was standing beside her and told PIX 11 News what she saw, “I looked out the window and it was nothing but smoke, and I said let me get my neighbors out in case it spread.”
The fire was manageable, but physically taxing. A seat on a concrete step was the best escape for some.
The 4-alarm fire in Jersey City ignited shortly past noon. In a span of minutes approximately ten square blocks were shut down according to an officer with Jersey City Police Department. Along Belmont Avenue hoses littered the street as tens of thousands of gallons of water showered the row houses, “Right now we are conducting defensive operations until the building is safe to make entry and do a direct attack on the interior,” said Darren Rivers as his men battled the fire yards away.
Officials say the fire began inside 27 Belmont Avenue. In all more than 100 firefighters were called in to engage from high and low, each one accounted for on the control board being directed by a Deputy Chief across the street.
The fire was manageable, but physically taxing. A seat on a concrete step was the best escape for some. For one fire fighter it was a stretcher and a trip to the hospital after experience slight discomfort in his chest.
As empty Scott bottles, the air tanks that provide oxygen to firefighters, were being stacked on the street, firefighters reflected on what they encounctered on the roof. One firefighter telling PIX 11 News that when they were cutting the roof, a stiff south wind, was blowing the smoke straight into their faces limiting visibility to virtually nothing.
“The firefighters went ahead to cut, trench cut, to advance so that the fire wouldn’t spread to the adjacent buildings, but laterally it spilled over to five buildings at this point,” said Armando Roman of the Jersey Fire Department.
The fire resulted in the loss of a home for at least 15 families. A few unaware of their status as they watched from a distance. When asked about her home, Hill said, “I don’t know right now. I’m just waiting.”
Paula Lee walked away with only a blanket and hopes, “We’ll see what it is when we get in there. I have no clue what to look for, what to expect.”
Meanwhile Curtis Lee watched, realizing he would have to deliver terrible news to his uncle, “If anything we’re worried about my uncle’s house. It’s right next to the one that is burning and his took some substantial damage, yet we can’t get a hold of him.”
At 5 p.m. The fire was contained and expected to be completely extinguished within a few hours.
The cause is under investigation.