On this April 20, a holiday for Judeo-Christians and marijuana users alike, the unfortunate has happened in a small New Jersey city. A stress filled Easter morning left at least 11 New Jersey residents homeless Sunday as an intense fire violently tore through three buildings in Paterson. Dangerous elements of the blaze incapacitated three individuals and left the three partitioned storefronts with residential apartments above destroyed.
Heavy, noxious smoke billowed from the buildings on Totowa Avenue on a bright Sunday morning, harshly obscuring visibility, polluting the fresh spring air, and sending local onlookers into a frenzied panic. The cataclysmic flames collapsed the roofs and left the backs of the buildings blackened and charred. All three buildings, separated by narrow driveways, were completely gutted by the fire. Officials say that what remains standing will need to be demolished to get to the hot spots still trapped there. Among the destroyed businesses was a laundromat, a travel agency, and the small liquor store where it is believed that the destructive blaze began around 9:30 Easter Morning. The section of Totowa Avenue where the fire broke out is still cordoned off.
The fire allegedly began due to a still unknown cause in the back of 374 Totowa Avenue, the storefront of Totowa Liquors. The blaze spread quickly, stubbornly given life by the gentle fanning of the nonpartisan breeze. One of the 11 displaced residents was admitted to a nearby hospital for smoke inhalation and two of the local firefighters were also hospitalized with minor injuries. Firefighters came from Hawthorne and Fair Lawn to assist in taming the obstinate fire. When a deputy chief serendipitously happened to be driving past the burning buildings and made the call, the fire had already begun to destroy the structures and flames could be seen lapping at the air from the backs of the buildings. The rear of all three buildings collapsed, making the firefighting efforts more difficult. The battle with the flames continued into the evening. While the fire officials suspect that the blaze broke out in the rear of Totowa Liquors, they are not sure what the exact cause is.
Paterson Public Safety Director, Glenn Brown said that approximately 100 firefighters from the various neighboring towns, many of which were not on active duty due to the Easter holiday, were called in to fight the multi alarm blaze at 9:37 this morning. Unfortunately, the Easter morning fire on Totowa Avenue is only the first of two burning events in Paterson today. A second fire broke out at 989 East 24th Street this afternoon at around 5 pm. The size of this fire was on a much smaller scale, and firefighters were able to get it under control by 5:40. Officials at the scene believe that the fire originated in the abandoned house’s basement from a still unknown cause. No searches have discovered any civilians in the burning building, but an injured firefighter was removed from the scene on a stretcher. Luckily, no fatalities have been reported from either disaster. The only casualty to count is the destruction of the three buildings on Totowa Avenue.
By Faye Barton