Fire rips through new townhomes in Garfield

A fire Tuesday destroyed a row of unoccupied townhouses being built in Garfield, forcing nearby residents to flee their homes before daybreak.

New townhomes under construction burn in Garfield this morning. The units were not occupied.

The two-alarm fire at Centex Signature Place at Garfield, 950 River Drive, reported shortly before 5 a.m., was brought under control within two hours.

Even after the blaze was under control, firefighters ran hoses through a slushy mix of snow and puddles to battle flames that continued to erupt from the skeletal remains of the roof of the collapsed rear portion of the three-story units.

The fire was fully extinguished at 1 p.m., about eight hours after it broke out, Garfield Fire Department Battalion Chief John Kopacz said.

No one lived in the building, which was still under construction, and no injuries were reported, either to firefighters or residents in nearby units.

“At 5 a.m., the doorbell rang and a police officer was there saying I had to get out because of a fire,” said Pat Zuliani, who lives across the street.

After getting out through the back door, Zuliani said she looked back at the burning building across Holly Lane from her home and could see firefighters on the roof above flames on the second and third floors.

The fire is believed to have been caused by a faulty propane heater construction workers were using to keep the unfinished interiors warm, Kopacz said.

The fire appeared to have started in the center of the row of 14 units and spread quickly because firewalls hadn’t been installed yet, he said. Eight of the units were destroyed and a ninth was heavily damaged.

Six large propane cylinders were stored in front of the townhouses, which could have blown at any time during the blaze from the heat of the fire, Kopacz said, adding when firefighters arrived, flames were shooting out of one of the cylinders.

Firefighters from four other towns — Elmwood Park, Maywood, Saddle Brook and Wallington — helped the Garfield department battle the blaze. And as the fire was brought under control, a truck from the Teaneck Fire Department showed up with coffee and pastries for the firefighters.

No estimate of the damage was immediately available, but the developer’s web site offers apartments at the complex at prices ranging from $278,230 to $393,145.


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