Families displaced after 4-alarm fire destroys residential buildings in Paterson, New Jersey

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Residents try to stay resilient after fire destroys multi-family homes in Paterson
Lucy Yang spoke to some of the residents whose possessions and belongings went up in flames.

PATERSON, New Jersey (WABC) -- Dozens of people are without homes after a fire tore through two residential buildings in New Jersey.

Workers boarded up the two multi-family homes in Paterson after a four-alarm fire tore through them on Tuesday afternoon.

Fortunately, no one was injured, but residents watched helplessly as their possessions and belongings went up in flames.

"I came rushing. I tried to get my papers and everything," said Christian Castellanos, one of the fire victims.

First responders, however, could not let Castellanos into the building. "I had to stay here and see the house burning down," he said.

Castellanos, his wife and two children lived on the first floor of the building at 788 East 18th Street for four years.

Once the scene was under control, he grabbed what few items he could salvage. Thankfully, his important papers did not turn to ashes.

Officials believe the fire started at 790 East 18th Street, then spread to the building next door, where Castellanos lived. Smoke and water damage extended to a third house, where Jose Diaz was sleeping at the time.

"I just had to put on my clothes real quick, get my phone, my wallet and immediately vacate the house. It started smoking up in there. I didn't want to breath in those toxic fumes," Diaz said.

Another displaced resident, Araceli Hernandez, is still trying to figure out where to go.

"We don't have any plans. We're here, sitting on the street, because we have nowhere to go," Hernandez said in Spanish.

Authorities say the tenants were given $600 from the Red Cross and some blankets as they ate their dinner on the sidewalk. The Red Cross says they are currently providing assistance to 45 impacted residents.

A number of victims say they didn't know about renters insurance, and so they have no coverage, but they remain resilient and strong in faith after losing their homes.

"We got to keep going and move forward, and try to see if God has a better thing now," Castellanos said.

One of the victims started a a GoFundMe and says the $600 from Red Cross will go very quickly and they have to start over.

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