Firefighters battle flames, heat in Jersey City

June 9, 2011 3:20:59 PM PDT
Two people sustained burns in a fire in a high-rise senior citizen building in Jersey City Thursday.

"The explosion was right outside my mother's window. I looked out there and it was on fire," Joseph Howard said.

Howard had no time to think. He was visiting his mother when a couple cooking two floors above in the 14-story building on Kennedy Boulevard started a grease fire.

The flames spread quickly, right in the middle of the senior center in Jersey City.

He made sure his mom was safe, and then ran up the stairs into the fire.

He saw the building maintenance man already at apartment 6A.

"He had the guy on his shoulder, so I helped him get the guy down - the guy who was burned in the apartment," Howard said.

Fire Chief Darren Rivers says the man who lived in the apartment suffered second- and third-degree burns to his face, shoulder and arms. His wife sustained second-degree burns to her hands.

An army of firefighters in full gear was waiting outside. Captain Mark Fallon was first on scene.

"When we arrived people were hanging out the windows on the front side," he said.

He was also first into apartment 6A. The fire was knocked down fast.

As they battled the flames, the brutal heat was oppressive and dangerous. A firefighter was treated for a heat-related ailment.

Rivers says the sprinkler system helped contain the flames.

Because the elevators were turned off, some residents of the senior citizen complex walked down 12 flights of stairs despite the heat.

The fire chief says both of the victims are in fair condition.