A massive, multialarm fire that lit up the western skyline along the Hudson River has destoryed a luxury apartment complex in New Jersey and left hundreds homeless — including beloved New York Yankees broadcaster John Sterling.
Sterling, the longtime play-by-play announcer for the MLB team, is among those who called the Avalon at Edgewater complex home.
“Maybe I’ll get lucky and there won’t be that much damage,” the broadcaster told the Daily News while taking refuge in a hotel.
Edgewater Mayor Michael McPartland, who took office Jan. 2, declared a local state of emergency as firefighters battling the blaze reported it remaining out of control four hours after it first broke at 4:20 p.m. Five FDNY fire boats attacked the inferno from the river, but by 9 p.m. parts of the complex began to collapse, The Bergen Record reported.
No serious injuries to civilians or firefighters have been reported. About 400 residents were evacuated, the complex owner said, and some were taken overnight to a local school. Officials said all people and pets have been accounted for. Edgewater Mayor Michael McPartland declared a local state of emergency.
But many residents, during a particularly frigid night, were left in the cold not knowing what possession they may have left.
Sterling was one of them.
“I don’t know what to expect. Now, I have nowhere to go. And I need a toothbrush,” he said.
Sterling said he was returning to the 408-unit building, attempting to board an elevator, when he noticed the smell of “intense smoke.”
“On one side of the building the elevators had already been shut down. I went to my elevators (at the back of the building) and tried walking in, but the smoke was so intense I said to myself, ‘John, you better get the hell out of here.’ So I just drove away,” he recalled.
“I was wondering what I was going to do for clothes. But then I started thinking about all the stuff, all the memories, whether it be music, books, and a lot of other stuff,” he said. “You know I was planning on moving to a new apartment complex and felt I was going to throw a lot of that stuff out. Now I hope I haven’t lost it,” he continued.
“One positive is, if there can be any, is all the people that have called me up asking how I’m doing. Like Willie Randolph, a secretary from the Yankees. Suzyn— another friend from Los Angeles. It must be a big fire because she heard about it on Ch. 7 L.A.,” he said.
As for what Sterling said he plans to do next: “I have a TV taping Saturday with Mary Carillo for the Hallmark Kitten Super Bowl. All I have to wear now is what’s on my back: Jeans, a polo shirt and a sweater.”
Authorities say it appears that everyone in the four-story, luxury complex was able to get out safely, although the cause of the fire was not immediately known. Displaced residents have been moved to the nearby Eleanor Van Gelder School and the Boys and Girls Club.
Edgewater schools will be closed Thursday.
Numerous firefighters from Edgewater and surrounding towns swarmed the scene to help battle the blaze — easily seen raging from across the Hudson River in Manhattan — but their efforts were being hampered by windy conditions and temperatures in the low 30s.
Streets around the burning building were cordoned off, but no major traffic problems have been reported.
Authorities are looking into reports that plumbers were working close to where the fire broke out, in a wall of an apartment on the first floor at the south side of the complex, Edgewater Police Chief William Skidmore told The Record.
Shockingly, this wasn’t the first time the apartment complex has burned down.
During its 2000 construction the $75.6 million building, then called the Avalon River Mews, caught fire after what was believed to have been an explosion.
One witness described the fire as needing only 12 minutes to ignite all three of the wood-frame buildings that comprised the new housing development, thanks to fanning winds.
“I went out front and the flames were like 500 feet high,” Mike Caprio told the News that August.
This is breaking news. Check back for updates.
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