A fast-moving fire swept through two apartment homes in Jersey City Monday, killing an elderly man in a wheelchair, authorities said.
One firefighter on the scene described the blaze on Bramhall Avenue at around noon as the fastest-moving one he'd seen in 30 years on the job.
Theresa Tutten watched her home go up in smoke.
"I'd seen the black smoke from Oak Street," said Tutten. "As I came down, I prayed it was not my house. I can't cry no more. I'm hurt."
The elderly man who used a wheelchair was killed in a ground-floor apartment.
A fire captain also fell three stories from a ladder as he responded to the fire, suffering broken bones and possibly a collapsed lung. Officials believe he was saved in part because he ricocheted between the sides of two buildings as he crashed to the ground.
"It slowed down his descent," said Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy. "And he's in serious but stable condition at Jersey City Medical Center, where we believe he will recover."
Three other firefighters suffered minor injuries.
Amid the destruction, four dogs first believed to be lost in the fire were rescued in the fire. The owner, who considers the dogs family, could only say thank you to the firefighters who pulled his puppies from the ashes.
"I really appreciate that from the city of Jersey City," the owner said.
The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.