A massive blaze that damaged five buildings and left dozens of people homeless raged for hours overnight until firefighters were able to get it under control by daybreak Thursday. One person remained unaccounted for.
The fire started at about 9 p.m. Wednesday and left a dozen firefighters with minor injuries, the most serious being a broken hand, said Michael Cranwell, deputy chief of North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue.
The blaze started in the basement of a building on Bergenline Avenue, a main artery that runs north-south through several towns just outside the Lincoln Tunnel. The cause of the fire was under investigation.
"I saw a lot of people running out of the building, a lot of little kids," said Hector Rodriguez, who lives around the corner. "People were screaming; it was bad.
Dozens of displaced residents were taken to the Jose Marti Freshman Academy in Union City, a few blocks away.
White smoke continued to billow up from the collapsed roof of one building by midmorning Thursday as fire crews used hoses attached to tall cranes to spray the rubble.
Five buildings were damaged by fire and two more were damaged when firefighters broke in to ensure the fire didn't spread, Cranwell said.
The missing person was in the basement of one of the buildings, Cranwell said.
All the three-story buildings are attached structures on a block that features businesses including a liquor store, grocery and dollar store with apartments on upper floors. The buildings are about 80 to 90 years old but should have been equipped with smoke alarms or smoke detectors, Cranwell said.
Crews were expected to be on the scene for the rest of the day to assess whether any of the buildings would have to be knocked down.
Fire crews from as far away as Bloomfield and Newark — both about 10 miles away — came to help battle the blaze.