A fiery blaze at a Brittany Drive apartment building caused the roof to buckle and collapse and a firefighter to fall through the floor of the burning building, as dozens of evacuated residents watched from the street.
The firefighter - who fell about eight feet - was not injured, and all of the three-story building's 24 apartment units were safely evacuated, authorities said Monday. All residents of Building 10 of The Brittany Chase complex will be displaced, and the American Red Cross is on hand to help with temporary shelter assistance, police said.
The cause of the fire, which caused extensive damage to the property, remains under investigation.
More than 100 firefighters from the town's five companies responded to 1014 Brittany Drive shortly after 11 a.m., on a report of smoke in the building, Clarke said.
The fire was knocked down in about an hour, and a firefighter from Company 4 in Wayne, was taken to Chilton Memorial Hospital in Pompton Plains for heat exposure, Clarke said. At least one other firefighter was treated at the scene for heat exposure, Clarke added.
The cause of the blaze was not immediately known, but it appeared to have started on the top floor of the building.
By early afternoon, the air on Brittany Drive remained thick with smoke, which continued to billow from the roof. Weary residents lined the curb, watching firefighters hose down the building.
Matt Hannah, whose girlfriend lives on the second floor, said he saw smoke coming out of the air conditioning vents before the building was evacuated.
"We ran around the building, trying to help as many people as we could get out," Hannah said, adding that they helped an elderly woman evacuate. "Then we just went outside and watched it burn."
Community manager Paul Walmers said he "tried to keep everybody calm," during the evacuation of Building 10, where several elderly residents live.
Leon Zerolnick, 93, who lives on the first floor, said he came outside as residents on the floors above were being evacuated.
"I didn't have anything to worry about because I have a bottom floor apartment," he said.
David Odum, 24, said he saw smoke and ran out of the building with a cell phone and the clothes on his back.
"You could see it escalating," Odum said, adding that he left all his belongings inside. "I just know it's flooded."
Phyllis Boris, who lives in the building next door, watched from her balcony as smoke engulfed the building.
"It's just incredible, for about a half hour, all you could see was smoke," she said.
In addition to Wayne's five fire companies, Pompton Lakes, Clifton, Pequannock, Little Falls and Totowa responded, Clarke said.
Mayor Christopher Vergano, who was on the scene, said the volunteer firefighters should be commended.
"In this day and age, it's incredible to see all these firefighters and first responders give up their free time to protect people," Vergano said.
Anyone willing to assist displaced residents should call the Red Cross at 800-507-6058.