DOVER, NJ — A fast-moving blaze ripped through the business district of a New Jersey town, destroying six businesses and displacing more than 100 people across five separate buildings, according to officials.
Daniel DeGroot, director of public safety for Dover, said the blaze was reported just after 3:30 p.m. Monday as smoke filled the basement of a luncheonette. Officials said the fire was deemed under control by 9:30 p.m., but firefighters were still on scene containing the blaze nearly 15 hours later.
The fire grew quickly as it spread throughout the luncheonette's building and surrounding structures in the town about 30 miles west of New York City.
“To see that, it’s sad it breaks everyone’s heart,” said Hector Acevedo, a Dover resident.
Forty fire companies responded to the scene with firefighters racing through the buildings threatened by the flames to clear out occupants. All affected occupants of the buildings were safely evacuated, DeGroot said.
"In my tenure here, this is the worst I've seen," Town Administrator Don Travisano told the North Jersey Record. "It's a nightmare thinking of a fire because the buildings are old and close together."
James Dodd, the mayor of Dover, said the fire has already caused a devastating blow to the community.
"Now we have residents who are going to be displaced," the Democratic mayor said. "We're in the middle of developing our downtown area. It's undergoing a complete renovation so it couldn't have come at a worse time."
Roads have been closed off throughout the area and officials are asking residents to avoid downtown.
The Red Cross is assisting about 100 people through an emergency shelter established in the basement of the Dover Fire Department. Forty residents will be able to return home Tuesday, officials said.
“The is devastation,” the mayor said. “The buildings can be rebuilt, but right now our focus on the families.”
Officials said a police officer sustained a minor injury because of the blaze. No other injuries were reported.
The Dover Fire Department says they will update the public on places to donate for the people and businesses displaced in the coming days.