100 homeless after fire ravages Woodbridge complex

July 11, 2012 2:22:52 PM PDT
It is one of the biggest fires Woodbridge has ever endured. 50 units, housing hundreds of people, are gone.

"It's so depressing. We lost everything," Mona Cisse, Ivory Coast native, said.

"It's scary, you see your own house burning before your eyes," Vidhi Joshi said.

Some demolition began at the Colonial Gardens apartment complex today to make the site as safe as possible, as the investigation into what caused the fire begins.

"We think we have an area where it started, which helps to determine cause," Avenel Fire Department Chief Fran Strain said.

No one is allowed to filter through the rubble to try to retrieve belongings. Many victims are immigrants. They had to escape the flames leaving important papers behind.

"Green cards, passports, documents - so that the primary concern," Woodbridge Township Mayor John McCormick.

The Red Cross is here, and so is the community, donating boxes and bags of food, baby items, and clothing. Robert Jackson lives in another building at the complex. He came to the relief site offering support.

"Clothing, money, whatever. I'll do it. It could have been me," Jackson said.

The site will be secured 24-7 because many valuables may still be in the rubble.

Management is opening vacant apartments to families, trying to help them return to some since of normal as quickly as possible after a disaster that left them and firefighters shocked.

"I've been in the company 22 years, and I've never seen a fire like this," Strain said.

The unprecedented nine-alarm fire at the complex is believed to have started in the courtyard Tuesday afternoon, and it quickly spread to the roof through a common cockloft.

"Once it got up to the top of the peak of the roof, that was it, it's just going to run," Strain said. "There's no way to stop it. We made trench cuts."

More than 200 firefighters battled the fire for hours, as the stubborn flames exhausted water supplies of hydrants in the area. Tankers had to be brought in to supply the hoses.

Late Tuesday, bulldozers were brought in to allow firefighters access to hot spots.

Firefighter were on the scene for more than 12 hours. No injuries were reported.


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