HAWTHORNE, NJ - A black Mercedes exploded and caught fire at approximately 10:45 a.m. this morning, across from R.D. Bender's Bar on Lafayette Avenue.  An adjacent business suffered some damage as a result of the fire, though the Hawthorne Fire Department was able to control the blaze.  The immediate cause is unknown, pending further information.

The surrounding businesses were evacuated and no injuries were reported, according to a source.  The vehicle's front end was completely destroyed and traffic from Vreeland to Utter Avenue was blocked.

Sharon Abood, owner of the "Whim Wish" gift shop in Hawthorne, was just across the street.  "The driver pulled over and got out of the car, there was smoke coming out of it, they called 9-1-1.  Angelina's [Deli] sign was melted, the fire department was hosing down the front of the building."

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The explosions heard were believed to be from parts of the car, including the battery.  "Thank God it never got to the gas tank," Abood said.

Michael Jannicelli contributed to this report.

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