2-alarm New Jersey fire destroys homes, closes school for the day

NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- A two-alarm fire burned through a building in New Jersey Friday morning, with the plumes of heavy smoking forcing a school to cancel classes for the day.

The fire broke out on Sussex Avenue in Newark just before 5:30 a.m. and quickly spread to all floors.

No injuries were reported, but firefighters were forced to pull out of the building to battle the blaze from the outside due to concerns about the building's structural integrity.

"The fire got in the walls of the interior of the structure and quickly extended to the common area and the roof level and quickly spread through the entire building," Newark Fire Chief Rufus Jackson said.

Flames could be seen shooting from the windows, and the smoke from the fire could be seen from miles away.

The more than 470 students at nearby Sussex Avenue Elementary got the day off from school, and the fire destroyed the home of two of their students.

"It's filled with smoke, so the superintendent chose to close the school for the day," Principal Darlene Gearhart said. "It's basically on the first floor. The second and third floor didn't get affected as much, however, it's still not safe to have students in the school."

Addy Mustapha and her husband say they smelled the smoke and quickly rushed to get their kids out of the bed.

"You couldn't see, you couldn't breathe," resident Addy Mustapha said. "We didn't know what to expect. We didn't think it was going to catch on fire. We just thought it was smoke, we will go back inside. We didn't grab anything."

It took fire crews 45 minutes to get the flames under control, but the smoke was intense.

Even with heavy fire, the four families inside were able to get out safely. The Red Cross is offering assistance, but Mustapha and her husband fear they will have to start over.

"Everything is exposed," she said. "Everything is just burnt to charred right now. It's horrible."

Teachers and staff say they are going to do whatever it takes to help get the family back on their feet.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

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