(New Jersey) -
A stubborn five-alarm fire ripped through a New Jersey home early Tuesday morning, authorities said. The blaze broke out shortly after 9 a.m. at 217 Hackensack Plank Road in Weehawken, officials with the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue said.
It took 75 firefighters more than three hours to contain the raging flames, Jeff Welz, co-director of the fire command said.
"It had literally consumed the entire building," Welz said. "Within a minute, the fire had extended from the first floor to the second floor."
Complicating matters even further, officials discovered when they began battling the blaze that the building extended 50-feet in the rear to accomodate four more apartments, Welz said.
Miraculously, none of the roughly 20 residents were injured. One Weehawken Police officer was treated for smoke inhalation when he rushed inside the building to look for people, Welz said.
"Fortunately it was during work hours," Welz said.
Witnesses described a frantic scene of trying to escape the quick-moving inferno. The flames rose quickly along the wood-framed building, forcing one woman to quickly evacuate the home, according to reports.
“It was just like something exploded, literally flames and fire,” said witness Adnan Javed told CBS New York.
Resident Franck De Las Mercedes, who uses his apartment as an art studio, fears that his worldly possesions and work has been charred beyond repair.
"I haven’t really processed it yet, I work from home, I’m an artist, and my life’s work is in there and it’s probably gone,” De Las Mercedes told CBS.
His wife Nicola Blount, initially thought that someone had burned their food, but erred on the side of caution and evacuated.
"We heard the alarm and we were just going to ignore it like most people do, just someone cooking," she said. "And I walked outside and there were flames coming out of the bottom of the apartment," Blount told ABC7.
Arson has not been ruled out. Fire officials are reviewing witness video which shows the building becoming engufled in flames at a rapid pace.
"This was a very advanced fire," Welz said. "That’s what our detectives are looking at."
Written by Irving DeJohn