Amazingly, no one was injured, but it certainly was a close call for some firefighters.
The flames made quick work of the two multi-family buildings, destroying the homes of a dozen people as passersby watched in horror.
"People were running out of the building, it was like a movie type of fire," witness Alison Cacares said. "I've never seen anything like that. It was horrible."
The flames broke out around 5:30 p.m. in the house on 23rd Street at 10th Avenue, and there was no stopping the blaze as it spread to a neighboring building.
"I'm just leaving it in God's hands," fire victim Margaret Gibson said. "He fix everything for everybody. Everything happens for a reason."
The Gibson family has lived in one of the homes for nearly half a century.
"Forty six years, how do you go about recovering that?" Frank Gibson said. "That's a lifetime...Everybody's safe. That's the main thing."
But everyone was not safe, as firefighters scrambled to save one of their own.
"Minutes, within minutes, we could have possibly lost a firefighter or lost a crew," Paterson Fire Director Glenn Brown said.
An entire company of Paterson firefighters was just minutes from certain death after one fell and crashed through first floor into the burning basement.
"And those firefighters had to stop their fire suppression and quickly go into rescue mode to pull out their comrade who was in the basement," Brown said.
They all made it out alive, and the building was deemed too dangerous even for them. Firefighters spent the rest of the time mounting an external attack.
Brown said it was the closest he's ever come to losing one of his own.
"I'm going to say a prayer and thank God that we didn't lose anyone," Brown said.
The two buildings were considered a total loss. A third building suffered heavy water damage, and residents there were waiting for an assessment.