7 towns respond to Belleville blaze

Photos by Andrew Taylor The scene last Friday on Washington Ave. in Belleville.
Photos by Andrew Taylor
The scene last Friday on Washington Ave. in Belleville.


By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent


A four-alarm blaze in two multi-family buildings on Washington Ave. on Friday night displaced 31 residents, Belleville fire officials said. All were evacuated safely, and no injuries, to either civilians or firefighters, were reported.

At the height of the blaze, fire crews from seven departments were at the scene. Along with the Belleville FD, there were responders from Montclair, Nutley, East Orange, Newark, Bloomfield and North Arlington.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Belleville Battalion Chief Richard Cavanagh said the fire broke out about 8 p.m. in a three-story structure at 472 Washington, between Little St. and Tappan Ave., housing a tattoo parlor on the ground level and two apartments upstairs.

Before it was declared under control at 11 p.m., the fire spread to an adjacent eight-unit apartment house at 476 Washington.

Complicating firefighting efforts was a very narrow light shaft between the two buildings. This shaft, Cavanagh said, was only inches wide, lined with asphalt shingles and acted “like a chimney.”

“Once it got into that [the shaft], it was difficult to contain, but they [the fire crews] did a great job,” Cavanagh said.

There was some fire damage to the apartments on the south side of the larger building, adjoining the shaft, but on the north side, thanks to the aggressive efforts to contain the flames, damage was reportedly limited to smoke damage.

Cavanagh said residents were later allowed to retrieve some of their belongings from their apartments, but both buildings were tagged as currently uninhabitable.

Although the blaze had been knocked down within three hours, the Belleville FD was still at the scene Saturday afternoon to ensure there were no flare-ups.

While the Belleville crews were fighting the blaze Friday night, the Orange, West Orange and Cedar Grove fire departments provided coverage to the town.

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