At least 3 hurt in New Jersey fire

September 10, 2008 3:12:59 PM PDT
A third-alarm fire tore through a Scotch Plains garden apartment complex Wednesday, burning at least three people. The fire started on the first floor, but it moved quickly to the roof.

The flames gutted four garden apartments and damaged three others inside the Lambertsmill Village on Spruce Mill Lane.

The fire started around 11:20 Wednesday morning, just about the same time Kelly Briceno entered her apartment in an adjacent building.

"I heard a very loud pop. I heard screaming. I thought someone was fighting. I looked out the window and watched a man on fire jump out of the window," she said.

Scotch Plains police said that man was one of three maintenance workers inside the ground floor unit refinishing the floors.

"They were working with acidtone-type substance to varnish the dining room floors. One victim said he looked up and saw a wall of flames," Lt. Brian Donnelly said.

The flames grew quickly as firefighters from seven neighboring towns responded.

Residents watched as the maintenance workers' supervisor tried to brush the flames off the men.

The victims were flown to St. Barnabas Hospital. One worker was burned over 80 percent of his body. The others were burned over about 30 percent of their bodies.

All three victims were listed in critical condition Wednesday night.

The village, consisting of two-story garden-style apartments, was built 12 years ago. The displaced residents will be moved into other units, officials said.

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