Twelve families lose homes on New Year’s Eve after stubborn blaze

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About a dozen families will be passing in the new year in temporary housing, after fire destroyed their homes on the Hudson River in North Jersey.  An entire apartment building in the Roc Harbour condominium complex will have to be demolished after the five-alarm blaze caused it to collapse.  Two adjacent buildings were so badly damaged, they won’t be habitable for weeks or months, according to a senior fire official.

The fire broke out around 5:15 A.M. Monday in the high-end luxury complex at 8000 River Road.

“One of my neighbors knocked on the door and said get out of here immediately,” Garima Kishore told PIX11 News.  She lives in Building 16 in the complex, which is the next building over from where the fire broke out, Building 15, which is made up of four apartments, according to the local fire director.

Kishore and other residents emerged to see extensive smoke and dozens of firefighters responding to the fire that eventually rose to five alarms.  The building, despite a curtain of smoke a block deep, remained intact for some time.

“Then, within a matter of an hour, the roof started collapsing,” Kishore said.  “The fire was huge.”

A bright orange glow in the building’s windows in the pre-dawn darkness showed the fire’s intensity.  After sunrise, the light was bright enough to see that the damage was extensive.

What had been a four story structure, had become a two-story, partially collapsed pile of wood.  The flames had eaten away at the wood and other building materials, leaving Building 15 collapsed, and its homes inside gone.  The apartments adjacent to the building were also severely damaged.

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The boiler room in the Building 15 apartment is where Investigators believe the fire started, but they are still investigating exactly how it ignited.

“We believe eight units are lost, and the two adjoining [buildings] on each side,” said Michael DeOrio, the North Hudson Regional Fire Rescue Director.  “[They’re] going to have to be reconstructed,” DeOrio said regarding up to 16 apartments that were either totaled or partially damaged.

He further commented on the origin of the blaze.  “One of the residents called in the fire,” he said.  “He went to his boiler room, when he went to the door, heavy smoke came out.”

The boiler room in the Building 15 apartment is where Investigators believe the fire started, but they are still investigating exactly how it ignited.

At least a half dozen people, including police officers and firefighters, were treated for smoke inhalation after the fire broke out, but as both the fire director and a temporarily displaced resident pointed out, it was not as severe as it could have been.

“[It’s] not great for New Year’s Eve,” Director DeOrio said.  “It could’ve been a lot worse.”

“That’s important,” said Kishore, who will have to spend the holiday in a hotel, since her building was damaged by smoke and the water of firehoses.  “[There were] no casualties,” she said thankfully.

Also, veteran PIX11 anchor and reporter Marvin Scott happens to live in Roc Harbour, a few doors away from the now-collapsed building.  He and his family were not hurt, and his home was not damaged.  Both the fire director and the mayor of North Bergen, Nicholas Sacco, expressed their relief that Scott and his neighbors were okay.

They will, however, be without electricity or gas until all of the smoldering embers are out — they had burned throughout Monday.  The power and gas can also not be restored until all of the electrical panels and gas lines damaged in the fire are repaired and inspected, which could take another day or two.

It’s an additional blow to the Hudson Riverfront community of about 100 homes.  All of its buildings took on water and were left with noticeable damage during Superstorm Sandy.  As Mayor Sacco told PIX11 News, Roc Harbour’s residents “are hoping for a happier new year.”

Unfortunately, they will have to pass in the new year in temporary housing.