Dozens displaced when wind-driven flames rip through 4 homes in NJ city

A five-alarm fire ripped through four homes in Elizabeth Sunday afternoon, displacing at least 30 people and destroying three dwellings.

The fire was reported at 3:30 pm on the 100 block of Smith Street, said Ruby Contreras, an Elizabeth City spokeswoman.

The fire quickly escalated in winds that gusted between 15 and 39 miles per hour, resulting in a second alarm at 3:37 and a third alarm at 3:40 pm Each alarm brings a set number of firefighters and apparatus to the scene.

Firefighters battled the blaze in frigid temperatures that felt like 25 degrees with the windchill.

Photos from the scene show wind whipped flames engulfing one of the homes, which collapsed.

“A total of four houses caught fire and three are totally demolished,” Contreras said.

While there was no visible fire around 6 pm, the fire was still smoldering, she said, “but there is still a lot of smoke.”

Dark columns of smoke could be seen from nearby highways billowing from the neighborhood between Route 1 & 9 and the New Jersey Turnpike.

Searches were conducted of the homes and no occupants were found, Contreras said. However, Elizabeth firefighters called for a drone with thermal imaging capabilities

“Approximately 25 to 30 people have to be relocated,” she said. “Right now the cause of fire has not been determined.”

Two firefighters were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation but were cleared and returned to duty, she said.

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Larry Higgs may be reached at lhiggs@njadvancemedia.com.

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