At least 8 NJ FFs hurt battling blaze after residents delayed calling 911
Officials said some of the residents tried to put out the fire themselves before calling for help
Anthony G. Attrino
NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.
PASSAIC COUNTY, N.J. — Several firefighters were hospitalized Monday for heat exhaustion and other injuries after they were delayed responding to an electrical fire in Passaic County when residents tried to put out the blaze themselves, authorities said.
The apartment fire was reported to police about 2 p.m. on Passaic Street, according to Passaic Mayor Hector Lora.
The 911 call was made only after some of the 20 residents who lived there tried to extinguish the blaze themselves, Lora said.
The attempt delayed first-responders who arrived after the fire spread from the ground floor to the attic, fire officials said.
Firefighters brought the blaze under control, but only after it had spread and destroyed two nearby structures. Two other buildings sustained water and smoke damage, the mayor said.
The residents, which included a 3-year-old, teenagers and adults, were taken to Passaic City Hall and then assisted by the New Jersey Red Cross, Lora said.
The New Jersey Red Cross tweeted it was helping six families with temporary lodging, food and clothes.
No fatalities were reported. Officials said eight or more firefighters were injured – some due to smoke and others due to the heat, which soared about 90 degrees with high humidity on Monday.
Lora said six of the eight firefighters were from fire companies in Passaic County, while at least two others were from Bergen County.
ABC7ny.com reported two firefighters were hurt after falling and that several others were treated for heat exhaustion on the scene but did not go to the hospital.
The incident prompted Lora to implore residents to immediately call for help rather than try to douse the flames themselves.
“I know that there’s a natural reaction if you see fire to respond to it (yourself) but there are many things you don’t see, especially with electrical fires,” Lora said. “Sometimes the fire is in the wall and you don’t see it, so you think you have it under control.”
Officials said the fire appeared to have been electrical and Lora noted that most residents had fans and air conditioners running on Monday to combat the heat.
“If you encounter a fire, electrical or otherwise, (do) not try to control it yourself,” Lora said. “Your first step is to get out of the house, call 911.”
©2020 NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.
Posted by Hector Carlos Lora on Monday, July 27, 2020
While a Red Cross disaster worker is on the scene in #Passaic, our volunteers are communicating with affected families virtually to assess their immediate needs after this home #fire. pic.twitter.com/Z6s9GOOT2w— Red Cross New Jersey (@NJRedCross) July 27, 2020