PASSAIC, N.J. (PIX11) – Dozens of New Jersey residents were displaced after a fire gutted a residential building in Passaic early Friday morning.
It was just after 2 a.m. when Tyrone Sanders says he jumped out of bed, woken up by emergency vehicles responding to a four-alarm fire that broke out at a residential building across the street from his home on the corner of Madison Street and Hamilton Avenue.
Sanders was among the many neighbors who jumped into action to help tenants fleeing the blaze. “I gave them a jacket, some socks, water. These people were cold and they had nothing on,” Sanders said.
Anthony Rivera, 19, said he was in panic mode after successfully rushing his family out of their third-floor apartment.
“When I went outside, the other half of the building was smoking really dark smoke. A lot, a lot. It was very suffocating,” said Rivera.
The fast-moving fire ripped through walls and eventually caused the roof to collapse on the three-story building. Fire departments from several nearby municipalities assisted in containing the blaze, which finally got under control hours later.
All the tenants were able to survive, but as many as 67 people were displaced, including 15 children and 52 adults. Three people were taken to a nearby hospital with minor injuries. Several pets have also reportedly died
“Over 65 displaced, structural compromise on the building, a roof collapsed, but everyone is still alive and that’s so very important,” said Passaic Mayor Hector Lora.
While everyone walked away, some families told PIX11 News they lost everything. A brother and sister said they lost an urn with their father’s ashes, in addition to irreplaceable family mementos.
By Friday evening, the American Red Cross moved the building’s 11 families to a temporary shelter inside a local school.
“They’ve had three square meals. We’re going to work on showers soon. I think everybody is in good hands for sure,” said Red Cross worker Julie Siciliano.
Back at the charred building, its owner was in no mood to answer questions about the fire or his homeless tenants.
Mayor Lora said the challenge now is getting financial assistance to the affected tenants who did not have renter’s insurance.
“I’ve been adamant, and I keep sharing it as mayor the importance of renter’s insurance. Because when you have people who already have so very little, and they lose everything, how do they recover?” asked Mayor Lora.