By Elizabeth Hur
CHERRY HILL, NJ (CBS) – A multi-alarm fire damages five homes on the site of the old Garden State Park.
According to authorities, nine residents including two children had to be forced out of their homes as a result of the fire in Cherry Hill.
Vivek Sailam is one of them and told Eyewitness News, “I was only gone for about forty minutes and to come back and see this, it’s quite devastating. It was pretty dramatic, I was just coming back from the gym and my main concern was that everyone was ok, my family and my neighbors.”
Fortunately, we’re told everyone got out safely. Eyewitnesses say the fire broke out shortly after 5 o’clock Monday evening. Authorities say it appears to have started in the back of the building on the first floor of one of the units in the 1500 block of Preakness Court in Park Place Town Homes.
Isis Estacio, an Eyewitness, recalled, “I saw people knocking on doors and nobody answered and nobody came out and children were screaming.”
Bob Frazier, another Eyewitness, added, “One house was on fire but it destroyed four? It makes you wonder about the whole construction.”
Deputy Fire Chief Robert Giorgio with the Cherry Hill Fire Department explained, “There are separation walls, however, they don’t go between every single unit in the attic so once the fire gains headway in the attic, it’s going to extend pretty fast. But we’re aware of that going into this.”
Officials say that is why they struck second and third alarms just as soon as they got on the scene and with help from agencies from surrounding communities, the fire was brought under control in about 45 minutes.
Two firefighters sustained minor injuries. One was treated at the scene for heat exhaustion. A second fireman suffered a cut to his face but managed to battle the blaze until it was out and only then, we are told, he agreed to go to the hospital to get treated.
In the end, five homes were involved and of those, two were destroyed.
“We have one person saying they were working in the area earlier today and they smelled smoke. We need to confirm whether that’s legitimate and where he smelled it,” Giorgio said.
Officials at this time do not believe the fire was set intentionally and their investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing.