New Jersey Apartment Fire Leaves 30 Homeless

A dozen families were left homeless yesterday by a four-alarm fire that ripped through a Burlington County apartment complex, authorities said.

Nearly 100 firefighters battled the blaze at the Edgewater Manor Apartments in Edgewater Park for 21/2 hours, said Fire Marshal John Augustino.

Police were first at the scene shortly before 7 a.m., and evacuated adjacent structures as two buildings became engulfed in flames, Augustino said.

"Once the fire penetrated the roof, it just went down the row of units, setting the shingles and plywood underneath ablaze," Augustino said.

Augustino said no injuries had been reported. An investigation into the cause is continuing.

Thirty people were displaced by the fire, said Mary Ellen Davison, director of emergency services for the Burlington County chapter of the Red Cross. Many of the families were moved to empty units in the complex.

"They're working hard to put them into real apartments rather than sticking them into motel rooms," said Davison.

Estella Matogrosso was sleeping in her apartment about 6:30 a.m. when she was awakened by a neighbor banging on her front door.

She woke her husband, quickly gathered her three children, and fled the building. The family watched as the roof collapsed and flames rose 100 feet.

"Everything is destroyed," Matogrosso said. "But fortunately no one was hurt - only my little fish."

Matogrosso said she feared that Paul, her Siamese fighting fish, had been poached in his aquarium.

Matogrosso said firefighters rescued several cats.

"There was a woman who was sobbing for her kitties," she said. "They were the only companionship she has."

A fireman brought them out alive.

"She was so happy. She was crying and hugging the cats," Matogrosso said.