Four families displaced after fire tears through buildings in Paterson, NJ

PATERSON, N.J. -- A four-alarm fire forced the evacuation of three buildings on Madison Avenue in Paterson, New Jersey Wednesday night.

According to the American Red Cross, they are assisting four families that have been displaced. Two children are among the displaced.

“The fire was tremendous .. it was not just in our house but the house next door, see our house burn down,” Daniel Mendoza said.

Mendoza was at work when his mother called to tell him their building was ablaze. He arrived to see their second floor apartment of the two-story building completely overtaken by raging flames.

Aerial views showed shooting fire and billowing smoke. Fire official say the age of the structure made things difficult for crews to battle the blaze.

“This type of structure we call balloon frame construction so really there’s unimpeded progress of fire to go right up to attic,” said Chief Brian McDermott, Paterson Fire Dept. “So once it gets in, it travels quick it’s old wood, dry wood.“

At the same time fire crews are thankful outside conditions didn’t cause their water hoses to ice over.

“It was that volume of fire upon arrival and the wind was going pretty good for a while thankfully it’s cold but not freezing cold we got lucky with that,” said Chief McDermott.

Cell phone video taken by an eyewitness who works at a popular restaurant across the street, shows the ferocious flames tearing through the roofs of the buildings.

“We were smelling fire then everyone was screaming fire so we went out,” said Noemi Castillo, who shot the video.

Eyewitnesses also report the fire started in the outside area between the T-Mobile store and the building next door, where the Mendozas live on the second floor.

“Luckily we able to help my husky get away everything else will just stay there family first, right now we don’t have anything,” said Mendoza.

Seventy-five members were on scene. Mutual aid from nearby Clifton, Passaic and Totowa assisted.

One Paterson firefighter was taken to the hospital to be treated for a minor injury.

There were no civilian injuries. According to Chief McDermott, a woman who lives in the building next door with her 40 cats all got out safely.

The Mendoza family doesn't expect to recover many of their personal belongings.

“We have to pick ourselves up start from zero but our family is safe. Tomorrow is a new day we will have to figure it out.”

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