A fast-moving fire at a condominium complex in northern New Jersey forced a young girl to leap for her life Tuesday evening, officials and witnesses say.
The blaze in† the Juniper Way complex in Mahwah started at around 4 p.m. in a third-floor apartment and quickly swept into the attic, according to authorities.
Responding Mahwah police officers saw a 9-year-old on the third-floor balcony, surrounded by smoke. Lt. Jeffrey Dino and Sgt. Brendan Mullin convinced the girl to jump from the balcony into their arms, according to police.
Recordings among the firefighters' radios affirmed that they "rescued the person."
Neighbor Fred Towers said, "She jumped into the firemen's arms and she was fine."
"She's a brave little girl," added Salvatore Capuano, another neighbor.
Police said they later learned she was home alone when she smelled smoke. When she tried to leave, she was confronted with heavy smoke in the third-floor stairwell.
She retreated back into her home and ran to the balcony, where she saw the officers below and leaped.
The girl was examined by EMTs at the scene and was in good condition. Her mother returned a short while later and took custody of the child.
Despite reigniting briefly, the fire was ultimately knocked out, but 12 apartments were damaged. Everyone who lives in the 24-unit building was told to spend the night somewhere else.
"Everybody's affected," said resident Annie Krajewski. "Twelve people lost their homes."
Police believe the fire started in the third-floor unit across from where the girl lives, inside the home of an elderly woman who was able to escape on her own.
A cause is being investigated, but police don't believe it to be suspicious at this point.
The building didn't have sprinklers. The firewall in the common attic was made of double Sheetrock walls, which was code at the time of construction, police said.