The 3-alarm blaze broke out a vacant building on Brookdale Avenue in Newark just after 1:30 a.m. The flames quickly spread, sweeping through 4 buildings, leaving 5 people, including 4 children and one adult dead. Two families are suffering.
"The arson squad is investigating," Newark City Manager Julien Neals said.
The fire started at 1:41 a.m. at 31 Brookdale, but quickly jumped to the multi-family homes on either side as families raced to save each other.
"I was ringing bells and banging on doors to let them know that the house was on fire," resident Beverly Ford said. "It just shot straight on out and just came straight through my apartment."
"We had to break the gate to get out...we got out and the guy is hollering my kids, my kids," Cynthia Coleman said.
Tyfees Jackson watched in horror as his neighbors screamed 2 of their 4 children were still inside.
"The mother and father came out with 2 kids he said he left 2 upstairs," Jackson said.
Ricky Taylor had gotten his family out and went back for his neighbor's kids.
"I ran back in but the smoke was too thick," he said.
31 had been boarded up recently after numerous complaints of squatters and illegal activity inside, which Councilman Ron Rice says the city will address.
"Absentee landlords have to be held accountable," he said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Four of the victims have been identified: 2-year old Javena Joseph, 3-year old Javens Joseph, 5-year old Angela Williams, and 17-year old Nazir Blackstone.
WAKE UP WITH EYEWITNESS NEWS! Click here to download the WABC Eyewitness News Alarm Clock app from iTunes. or search WABC or 7online in the app store.
Get Eyewitness News Delivered