PATERSON, NJ - A four alarm fire destroyed or damaged five buildings in downtown Paterson early Thursday, leaving over fifty residents homeless.

Members of the Paterson Fire Department were dispatched to the three-story frame storefront and residential building at 77 Mill Street shortly before 2:30 a.m.

Upon arrival heavy smoke and fire could be seen coming from the rear of the building that sits in the middle of a row of similar attached buildings lining most of the block. Flames quickly spread as residents could be appeared at windows on the second and third floors. Additional firefighters and equipment were called in as ladders were placed to rescue the occupants and lines were stretched in the front door and to the rear yard.

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As heavy fire took full possession of the rear of the fire building and some collapses occurred, all firefighters were backed out for their own safety and operations became defensive. A third alarm was called as the fire continued to additional buildings in the row.

Three elevated master streams were put into operation from three sides of the fire buildings as well as numerous hand lines in the front and rear in efforts to halt the advance of the fire ad additional resources were called in to continue the battle. All visible fire was knocked down within two hours, but units remained at the scene well into the daylight hours.

The cause is under investigation. Mutual aid from Passaic, Prospect Park, and Haledon assisted at the scene. No serious injuries were reported. Displaced residents were being supported by the American Red Cross.

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