SLIDESHOW/UPDATE: Citizens and officials, public servants and strangers, businesses and individuals all drew tight today around the more than 1,000 people displaced by a ravenous apartment complex fire in Edgewater last night.
Firefighters, meanwhile, continued to pour water on what remained of the main building of the Avalon at Edgewater development between Undercliff Avenue and River Road — the scene of a similar, less-devastating blaze nearly 15 years ago — as evacuees were allowed in briefly to retrieve whatever they could.
Those working tonight have generator-powered lighting.
CLIFFVIEW PILOT Correspondent Joe Dulanie captured these aftermath images:
City Place has become the official collection point for donation and relief efforts for the hundreds of families burned from their homes.
A host of volunteers, including local students, are hard at work at the Donation & Relief Center, which opened its doors at noon today and will remain in operation on the City Place promenade next to Fleming’s Steakhouse.
“We are swamped. People are responding,” one of the volunteers, James Tracey, told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . READ MORE….
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YOU CAN DONATE directly online at a borough-sponsored GoFundMe page: Borough of Edgewater Avalon Fire
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Gov. Christie met with local officials and told displaced residents that state investigators will determine whether existing building codes were followed when the complex was built.
“The fact that there was no loss of life here is really a blessing,” Christie said.
Maintenance workers using a blow torch to fix a plumbing leak ignited the fire in a first-floor apartment at the southern side of the four-story main building late yesterday afternoon, then called their supervisor and tried to extinguish themselves, Police Chief William Skidmore said tonight.
It was a full 15 minutes before they dialed 911, he said.
“It was an accident,” Skidmore said. “It was a tragic accident….It was not a criminal act.”
The lightweight wood construction made the complex a tinderbox once the blaze ignited, borough Fire Chief Thomas Jacobson said.
“If it was made out of concrete and cinder block, we wouldn’t have this sort of problem,” he said during a morning news conference.
In the end, firefighters were forced to surround the main building, tamp peripheral flames and let what had been a roaring inferno burn itself out.
It destroyed 240 of the 408 units, which displaced 500 residents of the main building and a similar number from nearby homes.
The chief construction officer for the complex’s parent company, AvalonBay Communities, responded in a statement:
“The Avalon at Edgewater community was built using wood frame construction, a standard, common, and safe construction method for multifamily housing used throughout the United States,” AvalonBay’s Michael Feigin said.
“The community was built in accordance with the fire and safety codes applicable at the time. The purpose of those codes is not to prevent the building from burning down, but rather to ensure that there is sufficient time and opportunity for all occupants to exit safely in the event of a fire.
“We are grateful that everyone at Avalon at Edgewater was able to leave the building and get to safety without serious injury. As a Company, the safety and well-being of our residents is a priority in the design, construction and operation of our communities.”
“We are awaiting a final determination from the Fire Department as to what portion of the community may be inhabitable moving forward,” he added.
“We very much appreciate the bravery and skill of the local firefighters in controlling and extinguishing the fire,” Feigin said. “We recognize the tremendous disruption that this incident has caused for residents and the community alike, and we are working with the Red Cross and local officials to assist residents.
“We are also fully cooperating with the fire marshal and other authorities as they investigate the fire and its causes.”
Edgewater firefighters issued a statement of their own:
“The Edgewater Fire Department would like to thank all of the towns who helped us fight this tragic 5-alarm fire. So many people came to help us and still to this moment are with us as we continue to get this fire 100 percent out. We are greatly appreciative to have our brothers and sisters to count on. Keep the families in your prayers who lost everything last night.”
A statement also came from Cliffside Park Council President Thomas Calabrese, the acting mayor:
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the affected residents and to the entire Borough of Edgewater.
“The local coordination certainly helped reduce additional spreading of this already horrific fire and will help in the recovery. I want to commend the Cliffside Park Fire Department for quickly implementing a plan that assured no spreading of the fire occurred in structures in Cliffside Park.”
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CAN YOU host an Avalon family for a few nights? If so, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Your name
• Contact email AND phone
• Number of nights you are able to host
• Number of people you are able to host
• Do you have a short-term rental apartment available for those displaced?
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