6 Firefighters Hurt, 3 Buildings Destroyed in Jersey Shore Inferno: Officials

Thick smoke was billowing from the building

Six firefighters have been injured in a massive fire that consumed three commercial buildings on the Jersey Shore Friday evening, causing one of them to collapse, authorities say.

The blaze broke out at a building on West Front Street in downtown Keyport about 3:30 p.m., and quickly spread to two nearby buildings, according to authorities. 

"It came on so quick, it took the whole building," said witness Bob Deronde.

Dozens of fire trucks and ladder units from several municipalities battled flames shooting through the roof and ripping through the structure. Thick smoke billowed from the building, blanketing nearby streets, video shows.

"It was pretty intense. The flames were pretty high," said Joe Vecchio. 

"The gray smoke just started billowing out of the front," said witness David Austin. 

Videos provided to NBC 4 New York by witnesses show part of the fire-gutted building collapse. Radio transmissions between emergency responders reveal concern over firefighters possibly injured in the blaze. 

"Urgent, we have guys down, urgent, Mayday," one firefighter is heard saying.

"Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!" the recording continues. 

Two of the firefighters who were inside the building when it collapsed were hurt, and and four other firefighters were injured battling the blaze, which destroyed five businesses and several apartments, the Monmouth County prosecutor's office said. None of the injuries was life-threatening; most were from smoke inhalation. 

It's not clear what sparked the fire. It was under control by the evening, but hot spots were continuing to pop up. 

There was a brief gas leak, but it was quickly capped, authorities said. 

Deronde said he was inside the building when the fire started. He said a roofer ran into his office looking for a fire extinguisher.

Now "the whole corner is totaled, our office is definitely totaled. The apartments up top, the building next door collapsed also," he said. 

The building is expected to be demolished Friday night because of structural concerns. 

Despite the destruction, residents were grateful the fire was contained before it destroyed all of downtown Keyport.

"I know a couple of firemen were injured, I hope they're OK. But they did an unbelievable job keeping that from spreading downtown," said Vecchio.

"If it wasn't for them, we'd be talking about 23 apartments burning down, and instead we're only talking about one or two. Thank God for them," said Austin. 

About 50 miles down the shore, another fire at a junkyard and recycling plant in Berkeley Township, Ocean County, forced officials to shut down exit 77 of the Garden State Parkway. 

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