First responders were answering a call for a gas leak at a home on Goshen Street in Paterson, but first, they evacuated everyone in the immediate area just in time, before the buildings were reduced to piles of rubble.
Eyewitness News has obtained exclusive video that captures the explosion and immediate aftermath:
With bare hands, Mahmoud Hamad and his brother picked through the ruble that is left where his home stood Tuesday morning, searching for anything.
Just a few feet away, heavy machinery was clearing away debris by the by the iron claw full, so for Mahmoud and his family, time was running out.
And then, in that mountain of lumber and bricks he had just a little luck.
"I find my documents, my papers like my passport, social security, but still not birth certification, not yet, have my job, my work certifications, my experience certifications, my trainings," Hamad said.
"All that's gone?" Eyewitness News Reporter Jim Dolan asked.
"Yes," Hamad said.
Mahmoud's wife and four children are all safe, and he's thankful to the fire department for that. They banged on the door and told his wife to get out.
"Run away, get out, she was so close, five minutes later this happened, but I'm lucky and she's lucky, thank God," Hamad said.
There were three homes were destroyed in the blast. Juilia Kalyoussef's sister, whose husband recently died, has lived in one of those homes for 23 years.
"Yesterday, we just cried to the police to get some photos and albums and some jewelry that she left inside, but they said it's not safe for her to go down and everything, everything is gone," Kalyoussef said.
Mahmoud and his brother loaded up the little bit they found and headed out with the hope of getting a new home.