A massive fire at a New Jersey midrise that consumed 240 apartments and permanently displaced up to 500 residents has been ruled accidental, authorities said.
Edgewater Police Chief William Skidmore said the fire was accidentally started by building workers, CNN affiliate WABC reported.
“Our hearts go out to everyone who was affected by this; it was a long and challenging night,” Edgewater Mayor Michael McPartland said during a Thursday morning press conference. “The fire is contained and under control.”
An additional 520 residents from nearby buildings were temporarily affected, McPartland said.
Two residents and two firefighters suffered minor injuries, but no one was reported missing, the mayor said. Some pets, however, could not be rescued, he said.
Edgewater Fire Chief Tom Jacobson said the blaze broke out around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Avalon at Edgewater, along the Hudson River across from Manhattan.
More than 200 firefighters battled to bring the fire under control as the flames shot high into the sky.
“We arrived on scene and we encountered the sprinkler system going off and smoke conditions on the first floor,” Jacobson said. “I sent in crews to check what was going on; we had heavy fire on the ceiling.”
Most residents were not home when the fire began, but some found themselves trapped in the blaze.
“The fire conditions were getting worse. It was in the floors and it just traveled,” Jacobson said. “We had crews on three floors. We had the task of dealing with multiple rescues on different floors because the smoke had traveled through the building, and we had to evacuate the people. We had people stuck on back balconies. We had ladders removing the victims from the balconies, and the fire just took off.”
Authorities established services for affected residents at a local community center, McPartland said.
The Edgewater School District shut down schools in the area and told residents to stay away. McPartland declared a local state of emergency.