PERTH AMBOY, NJ – Approximately 100 people were left homeless Sunday evening after a raging fire destroyed their apartment building at the Harbortown Terrace Apartment Complex. Residents stood outside in the parking lot in the frigid cold as they watched their homes become consumed in fire just a week before Christmas.
On Dec. 19, at approximately 6:30 p.m., the Perth Amboy Fire Department responded to Dally Ct. for a reported fire. Responding apparatus notified dispatch that they had a column of thick black smoke pluming in the sky.
Firefighters were faced with heavy fire conditions in the lower level garage area with heavy extension to the upper floors. The fire quickly traveled through the interior making its way to the wide open light-weight constructed truss roof. Within minutes the fire consumed the entire attic area and burned through the roof.
Firefighters set up several master streams around the building in an attempt to confine the fire to the one building, but the fire rapidly spread to an adjoining building. Elevated master streams were set up on all sides of both buildings and directed into the roof area, where the heaviest fire conditions existed.
A collapse zone was set up around the perimeter of the building as the roof started to collapse onto the floors below. Firefighters continued to flow master streams from a safe distance for several hours before having the bulk of the fire knocked in both buildings. The fire was declared under control in approximately five hours.
Firefighters remained on scene well into the night overhauling and hitting hot spots with extreme caution due to the instability of some sections of the building.
Approximately 32 families were displaced and are being assisted by the Red Cross for relocation. Not only did the residents lose their home in this devastating fire, they also lost their belongings, including gifts that were to be distributed to family and friends on Christmas.
Both buildings were completely destroyed and deemed uninhabitable by the Perth Amboy Building Department. It is unknown whether the buildings are able to be rebuilt.
There were several injuries reported at the scene, but none appeared to be life threatening.
Several mutual aid fire departments from Woodbridge Township and surrounding Middlesex County towns assisted at the scene, while others covered the city during the incident.
The fire is currently under investigation, but it appears the fire started somewhere in the attached garage that is directly below the living area.