Hero woman saves husband from huge 5-alarm Weehawken row house fire

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WEEHAWKEN, NJ (PIX11) – A local woman learned firsthand, at the risk of losing her life, the importance of taking a ringing smoke alarm seriously.  In the process, she emerged a hero.

Just after 9:00 A.M., smoke emerged from 217 Hackensack Plank Road, and at 9:07, the smoke burst into flame.  Eighty-eight seconds later, the whole building was fully engulfed.

“As I was leaving for work, the fire alarms went off,” said Nicola Blount, who lives on the second floor of the six unit apartment building.

 “My husband works from home, and he was actually going to ignore them because people cook and they go off,” Blount said.  “I walked outside and flames were shooting out of the bottom window of the building, so I ran back in to tell him it was a real fire, and started banging on everyone’s doors and trying to get everyone to come out.”
That means two things.  One, a ringing smoke alarm is a warning to be taken seriously.  Two, it means that Nicola Blount is a hero.  “Yeah,” she said humbly, tears welling up in her eyes, “You have to make sure everyone’s okay.”Everyone who was home in her building did get out okay, including her husband, who’s an exhibited painter.”My life’s work went up in flames,” said Blount’s husband, Franck de la Mercedes.  “Everything there, that’s where I store my work, that’s where I work. [That was] all my paintings dating back to 2002.”

It took about a hundred firefighters from around 9:00 A.M. until after 4:00 P.M. to get the fire fully under control.  North Hudson Regional Fire Rescue, the five-town fire department that worked the scene, kept some fire crews in place past sunset in case of flare ups.

It was a reminder of just how potentially deadly the situation was.
“It’ll hit me tomorrow,” said de la Mercedes about the severity of the fire that took his home.  “I think by tomorrow [I’ll say] ‘Oh my God, what happened?'””We’re alive,” he added.  “So there’s hope there, you know.”
All of the residents of the six unit apartment building have relatives or friends with whom they can stay while they try to get back on their feet.
Another multi-family residential building, on the street behind the building that burned on Tuesday, was the scene of a three alarm blaze on Saturday.  Fire officials told PIX11 News that there was no superficial evidence of a connection between the two blazes, but both are under investigation.