“We were lucky,” said an elderly Hispanic man who had returned from an event in Union City at about 2 p.m. on Nov. 27 to see the early spiral of black smoke rising from the roof where the fire was believed to have started.
Pointing to the remains to the building early on Thanksgiving morning, he indicated that the lower height of the two buildings gutted may have kept the fire from spreading more rapidly, and saved the rest of the block.
“When I moved here form New York City in 1969, I saw fire after fire destroy whole blocks up this street,” he said. “This could have happened here.”
The fire occurred mid-block in a series of connected structures, starting in the building containing an Italian restaurant. To either side of the affected buildings were a Laundromat, a jewelry store, a Mexican restaurant, a check cashing store and other retail establishments, all of which were unaffected except by smoke.
Mayor Steve Fulop called it “a devastating fire.”
“The Jersey City Fire Department did a terrific job,” Fulop said. “The Jersey City community is going to come together with donations through the United Way of Hudson County.”
“This was a four alarm fire,” said Freeholder Bill O’Dea, who arrived on the scene shortly after the reports came in. “It started about 1 p.m. and was still smoldering at 10 p.m.”
Fire officials said the fire started in the Buon Appetito restaurant on the ground floor, and displaced about 22 people, and resulted four firefighters being treated at Jersey City Medical Center for minor injuries. The Red Cross is finding temporary shelter for about 15 of the displaced residents.
The fire was at 343 Grove St., north of the Grove Street PATH station, a section of street that is also known as Manilla Avenue, part of a Filipino neighborhood.
Although the fire caused some traffic issues in the area, there was no disruption of PATH services, officials said. Freeholder Junior Maldonado said a few buildings nearby were affected by smoke and water damage and that the fire continued to smolder into the night, although it was brought under control within a few hours.
"Two of the buildings were totally engulfed and two suffered minor damage," said Maldonado, who was on the site along with Freeholder Bill O'Dea during the operations.
"I was there about 6:30 p.m. and it was still smoldering at a high rate," Maldonado said. "The building was still smoldering at 10 p.m."
Early on Thanksgiving morning, workers, shivering against the freezing temperatures, began to demolish the building with backhoe and other equipment.