Luxury New Jersey Apartment Complex Destroyed in Massive Fire

UPDATE: Luxury Apartment Complex Inferno Determined to Be Accidental

A massive fire that swept through a luxury New Jersey apartment complex Wednesday afternoon continued to burn 12 hours after it began, causing nearby schools and roads to close Thursday.

Firefighters struggled for hours to quench the flames at Avalon on the Hudson on Russell Avenue in Edgewater, 15 years after an earlier blaze burned the same complex to the ground as it was being built.

"We left in what we had," displaced resident Tamara Talbott said. "We got the kids and the dogs. Our cars are all underneath. There's nothing left.” 

The New York Post reports Yankees announcer John Sterling was among those displaced by the fire.

The fire was mostly contained by Wednesday night, with no loss of life or major injuries reported, according to Edgewater Mayor Michael McPartland.

McPartland declared a local state of emergency Wednesday night, announcing schools will be closed Thursday and roads will be restricted. 

The fire broke out around 4:30 p.m., and the 408-unit building was quickly evacuated. After firefighters first responded, the fire appeared under control for some time, but it escalated in the back part of the complex, which responders had a hard time accessing. 

The blaze then spread to the northern section of the building, engulfing multiple units. Flames and smoke could be seen from the top of Rockefeller Center, across the Hudson River. Thick plumes of smoke from the fire sent Chopper 4 over the scene to double its normal altitude -- from about 1,500 feet to 3,000 feet.

The fire drew massive emergency response, with departments from Hudson, Bergen and Union counties working the fire. The FDNY and Jersey City's fire department also responded with fireboats, helping to draw water from the Hudson River, officials said. 

Tankers and engines attempted to fight the blaze from the exterior, and collapse zones were set up around the complex as the blaze tore down roofs. 

The hillside communities surrounding Edgewater were also being watched, as embers from the blaze were whipped into the air. 

Around 160 people are being sheltered at a local community center with the help of the Office of Emergency Management and Red Cross, according to the mayor. 

Residents walked around River Road in shock as they wondered how a fire could spread so quickly. 

"For all the fire doors and things we have in the building, I'm shocked that it would go from something small to something like this," resident Talbott said. 

One responding fire chief told NBC 4 New York he thought lightweight wood construction was a factor in how quickly the fire spread. 

"It collapses very easily, and the fire spreads very easily throughout," he said.

The large Avalon on the Hudson apartment complex, located by the Hudson River across from Manhattan, is across the street from the Edgewater post office, and is located across a shopping complex that contains a Trader Joe's supermarket. 

The same apartment complex burned to the ground while under constructed in 2000. It was rebuilt featuring one-, two- and three-bedroom units designed to appeal to New York City commuters. 

McPartland said the building had sprinklers inside. 

Power and gas were shut off to the area as firefighters responded; some streets and buildings were still without power Wednesday night, and officials were expected to assess safety before allowing utilities to restore electricity. 

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