Five buildings were heavily damaged, but no one was injured, when a five-alarm blaze ripped through a New Jersey street lined with rowhouses early Tuesday, officials say.
Flames broke at a first-floor deli on New York Avenue in Union City shortly before 2 a.m. and spread up through the building, Union City fire officials say. A sheriff's deputy saw the flames from three blocks away.
Fire quickly spread to neighboring buildings and shot up billows of dense smoke that could be seen from Hoboken and Jersey City.
Firefighters stopped the blaze from spreading but had yet to contain it as of 6:30 a.m. At least three of the buildings will no longer be inhabitable, said Jeff Welz of the North Hudson Fire and Rescue Department .
"These buildings are very hard to contain because they're all attached and they're all wood frame buildings," Welz said.
Between 25 and 30 residents have been forced from their homes, firefighters say.
One man said his father asked him if he was cooking something minutes after the fire broke out. He said that after he realized the building was burning, he got his parents out and started knocking on doors to get neighbors out.
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The man said his family lost everything in the blaze.
"35 years, 35 years -- my age -- in that old house," one resident said. "And now it's gone."
The owner of the deli where the fire started said the store had been in his family for 10 years. They said they'd spent most of their time at the store.
"What can I say to you?" the deli owner told reporters. "This is everything I've worked for since I was a young kid."
Crews are still at the scene.