Puppies Rescued as Windswept Blaze Injures Several People, Destroys 5 Paterson Buildings

Five buildings were destroyed, at least six people were injured and more than a dozen puppies were rescued after a large, wind-whipped fire ripped through a New Jersey block overnight, firefighters say.

The fire started Wednesday evening inside a Peruvian restaurant at Sixth Avenue and River Street in Paterson, officials say. Flames quickly spread to apartments above and then blew through four other neighboring buildings. 

Crews were able to extinguish most of the flames by early Thursday morning, but the buildings were so heavily damaged that they will have to be demolished later in the day, according to Paterson Deputy Fire Chief Mike Fleming. 

Embers, carried by 40 mph gusts, blew across the street, sparking fires at at least two other structures, Fleming said. Several cars also caught fire. 

Witnesses said the block quickly filled with smoke.

"I looked out the window and I saw smoke all over the place," said a witness. "I ran outside and all you see is flames coming out of the two houses."

Four or five residents and two firefighters were taken to the hospital with minor injuries, Fleming said. Homes on both sides of the street were evacuated while crews battled the swirling blaze. About 26 residents were displaced.

Firefighters also rescued more than a dozen newborn puppies from a nearby building. Sharon Faison, the grateful owner of the dogs, called the firefighters "heroes."

Resident Juelz Acevedo says he was able to get his mother and brother out of one of the burning buildings, but was in tears as he watched his home burn.

"I'm just glad everybody's out, but I mean, I lost everything," he said. "Valuable stuff, pictures. You can't replace that." 

The cause of the fire is unknown at this time, Fleming said.

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