At least five people were hospitalized and dozens had to be evacuated after a massive fire broke out at an apartment building in New Jersey, officials said.
NBC New York was on the scene as firefighters worked to bring the multi-alarm fire in Passaic under control. Fire officials say the blaze started at around 3:30 p.m. inside the building located on Main Avenue, in the city's busy downtown.
Passaic Mayor Hector Lora confirmed the building was evacuated after the flames broke out and spread. Images from the scene showed heavy dark smoke billowing from the building and intense flames shooting out from at least one window on a lower floor.
At least a dozen people, including children, were seen making a mad dash to safety as the inferno raged, climbing down a second floor fire escape. Other people were trapped inside, fire officials said.
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"We had people trapped on the third floor, they made it to the fire escape," said Passaic Fire Chief Patrick Trentacost. "Every fire escape, one in the back, one in the rear. Seven people on this fire escape, six people in the rear fire escape."
Trentacost said firefighters had to prioritize saving lives over battling the flames, which allowed the fire "to get a little ahead of us." Ultimately the fire was contained by 6 p.m., Lora said.
Seven people were hospitalized as a result of the fire, including a 65-year-old woman, a woman in her 40s, a 19-year-old man, a firefighter and two children, one of which is just 7 years old. All were said to be in stable condition, and are expected to survive.
According to officials, there are seven apartment units in the main structure. One of the buildings impacted by the fire will be vacated at least for the night.
The 40 people who were evacuated were taken to city hall, where the Red Cross is providing assistance to the residents impacted by the fire.