Up to 100 firefighters battled a ferocious blaze Monday that gutted three buildings and left more than two dozen people homeless.
The Red Cross was on the scene assisting the displaced residents.
A few firefighters were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation but there were no other injuries, said Newark Fire Director Fateen Ziyad.
The fire broke out around 12:30 pm at 215 ½ Garside St. and quickly spread to adjoining multi-family homes. The four-alarm blaze damaged or destroyed four other Garside residences -- 219, 217, 215 and 213 -- before it was brought under control shortly before 3 pm, Ziyad said.
The cause of the fire was not known, but Chief John Centanni said it spread quickly because of the proximity of the structures to one another along the densely populated street.
“When you have an old structure building with a common cockloft and common walls, the fire can get in there pretty fast,” Centanni said.
Fire officials were unsure if the home where the fire broke out was vacant. One neighborhood resident, Benjamin Perez, 36, said the house was often occupied by drug-users.
“I was looking out the window from my backyard when I saw smoke coming out,” said Perez, who lives behind the home. “Then I saw fire. About ten minutes later I saw the fire trucks pull up.”
Firefighters poured multiple streams of water on the stubborn blaze, which produced thick clouds of smoke and burned through homes up to the rooftops. A ladder crew attacked the fire from above as hundreds of residents of the predominantly Latino North Ward neighborhood -- including displaced residents clutching pets or a few meager belongings -- looked on.
Christine Davin, 24, who works nights, was asleep in her bedroom at 215 Garside when a neighbor burst in and woke her.
“He opened the door and there was this cloud of smoke. We couldn’t see anything,” said Davin, who added that she “lost everything” in the fire.
Antonia Lee, who lives across the street from the burned homes, had tears in her eyes as she described the smoke billowing from 215 ½ Garside, where she said another fire had broken out a few years ago. The owner renovated the home following that fire, Lee also said.
“I was just praying, praying, praying for the people, for the firefighters, praying for the people to be safe. Praying to God to cover us.”