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Four-alarm fire devastates Paterson community

January 5, 2011 2:16:29 PM PST
Fire raced through a huge apartment building fire in Paterson, New Jersey Wednesday morning.

The fire started on North Main Street around 6:20 a.m.

As Jose de Leon approached his grocery store this morning, he realized the buildings next door were on fire. He could only watch as the fire closed in.

"Coming into my store, it was hard. Very hard," de Leon said.

He lost his store to the fire. Twenty-six people lost their homes..

Tony Smith came home to find he's lost everything he owns. He can't say for sure, but he wonders about the cause of this fire after reports of other recent fires.

"I don't want to speculate most definitely," he said.

Hot spots in the smoldering ruins of the old buildings late Wednesday prevented fire investigators from a more thorough search.

"We don't know if it's suspicious or not because we haven't been able to get into it. The two buildings have collapsed," Deputy Fire Chief Thomas Hirz said.

The four alarm fire spread quickly, chewing through the four buildings. Most of them contained apartments.

The fire sent residents scrambling for their lives.

Justin Robins, a neighbor, saw firefighters check one of the buildings a few weeks ago.

"I believe they evacuated it, checked it out. They definitely cleared it, and now we have a full fire," Robins said.

Passaic County prosecutor is investigating this fire. Officials said there have been three fires in two weeks inside the building where this fire started.

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