We perish because we know not… #TLENews
A huge fire ripped through an apartment building near the Hudson River in New Jersey on Wednesday night, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people and sending large plumes of black smoke billowing into the air.
The flames shooting from the Avalon at Edgewater complex were visible from across the river, on the West Side of Manhattan. On Wednesday night, no deaths or serious injuries had been reported, officials said.
The fire was reported around 4:30 p.m. at 102 Russell Avenue in Edgewater, a community of about 12,000 people, the police said. Firefighters were still working to put out the blaze after 11 p.m. amid the wind and the cold.
At a news conference around 11:15 p.m., the borough’s mayor, Michael McPartland, said he was declaring a local state of emergency and schools would be closed on Thursday. The fire had become less intense and was mostly contained, but would continue to burn for a while, he said. There were minor injuries to firefighters and one rescue of a woman who had to be helped out of a building. It started as a slow-moving fire and then heated up, he said.
“We feel fortunate and thankful,” he said of the responders who helped people evacuate.
Traffic was at a standstill in the area on Wednesday night, and the authorities were preventing people from getting near the fire. The Fire Department of New York sent a boat with firefighters aboard, Marine 1, to assist, fire officials said.
About 400 residents were evacuated to a nearby school, said Edmund Rhoads, a spokesman for AvalonBay Communities, the company that owns the complex. Some residents later relocated to a local community center where they were planning to spend the night, he said, adding that the Red Cross was involved.
The authorities were investigating the cause of the fire, Mr. Rhoads said.
One resident who evacuated was John Sterling, the Yankees radio broadcaster who had lived in the building for nearly 10 years. He returned home around 5 p.m. on Wednesday and smelled smoke in the garage, he said, but continued up to his fourth-floor apartment.
“I opened a hallway door and all of a sudden I couldn’t see anything, the smoke was so bad,” he said in a telephone interview. “I said, ‘Hey, you better get out of here.’ ”
He found a hotel room for the night and started hearing from friends about the shocking images on television of the blaze. The fire appeared to have ravaged his side of the building. “I’m worried my apartment is gone,” he said. “I will have to start all over.”
Still, he said he was thankful that everyone left the complex safely and no one had died.
“You look at the fire, my God, imagine if it happened at 1 o’clock in the morning,” he said.
The management quickly told residents to evacuate, Mr. Rhoads said, and many may not have returned home after work because the fire started in the afternoon.
“They were very prompt in notifying the residents,” Mr. Rhoads said.
A notice sent to residents via email around 6:30 p.m. warned them to evacuate because of “a minor fire” in one of the complex’s two buildings.
On Wednesday night, at least 75 people were inside the main room of the community center. Workers distributed bottled water, pizza and other food.
One man, who did not give his name, expressed the sentiment of residents there: “We just lost our homes, so we’re not really willing to talk.”
When Amir Moussavian, 53, of Paramus, arrived at his fiancée’s home near the complex for dinner on Wednesday, he noticed that the electricity was out in the adjacent buildings, so he went to have a look at the fire. He had first heard about the five-alarm blaze on the radio that afternoon.
“It’s remarkable,” he said, looking out at the conflagration. “And it’s gotten worse since I’ve been here. Nothing’s helping it.” The 408-unit complex has one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments that range in price from about $2,100 to $3,195 a month. It has a heated outdoor swimming pool and views of the Manhattan skyline.
Another major fire at the site in August 2000 engulfed a $70 million apartment complex that was under construction called Avalon River Mews. The fire also destroyed nine homes and 12 cars, and damaged several other homes.
There were no serious injuries in that fire, but officials said they had trouble extinguishing it because a ruptured gas line in the center of the apartment complex fed the fire. Investigators later said that there was no evidence of arson in the 2000 fire.
By Emma G. Fitzsimmons and John Surico
New York Times