The fast-moving four-alarm fire broke out in a garage just before 2:45 a.m. at 225 Mellon Place in Elizabeth, and flames shot high into the sky. The fire quickly spread to two neighboring homes.
The mother was pulled from the burning structure and rushed to the burn unit at St. Barnabas Medical Center in critical condition. Her teenage daughter was discovered dead on the second floor of the fire building, where window bars blocked firefighters from entering.
Five firefighters were injured, including two Elizabeth firefighters and one from Maplewood. They were being treated for smoke inhalation and exhaustion. One sustained a fractured wrist. Two police officers were also being treated.
The cause of the fire is unknown, but officials are speculating that there may have been a gas can or propane tank in the garage the somehow ignited. Neighbors reported hearing an explosion of some kind.
Firefighters' efforts were hampered by the fact that Mellon Place is a dead end street, and access was limited.
"When the volume of fire is so intense and 200 feet in the air when you arrive, you cannot tell where it started," Elizabeth Deputy Fire Chief Lathey Wirkus said. "We have an investigation team on the way to do that."
The homes on the street are located very close together, which officials say aided the spreading.