Rookie cop runs into burning building, saves 92-year-old, but 2 others perish
NORTH PLAINFIELD - Two people were killed and several families displaced when a fire tore through an apartment complex Sunday afternoon.
The blaze erupted juts before noon in a residence at the Regency Village apartment complex, according to NJ Advance Media, and the blaze appears to have been contained by 1 p.m.
North Plainfield Police Chief William Parenti said an elderly man and woman who lived in the same apartment died in the fire. The chief also said eight apartment unit were deemed "uninhabitable."
On Sunday evening, Parenti told NJ 101.5 that the units that were destroyed did not have sprinkler systems or "fire stops" which prevent flames from spreading between apartments. He said the building was constructed before the sprinklers or fire stops were required by law, so the buildings were "grandfathered in" and were compliant with the city's fire codes.
Parenti commended firefighters for tackling the flames during an especially hot day.
"The fire department did an absolutely outstanding job. For them to be battling that blaze in 95 degree heat was amazing," he said, adding that the roof was already engulfed in flamed when he arrived.
According to Parenti, the fire nearly claimed a third victim, but the efforts of a "rookie" police officer prevented the resident from succumbing to the flames.
OfficerJordan Rogers, who just joined the North Plainfield Police Department on Feb. 29, entered the burning building and rescued an elderly man.
"He entered the building while it was burning and smoke-filled and found 92-year-old male on the ground and carried him to safety," Parenti said.
The victim was given medical attention and the police chief said he's doing well.
"He grew up in North Plainfield, went through all the schools here. He's a really good guy," Parenti said of the officer.
Following the blaze, workers from the Red Cross Disaster Action Team responded to North Plainfield to assist the victims. The Red Cross said in a statement Sunday that the team was on hand to "provide comfort and emergency assistance to the families affected by the fire."
According to the Red Cross, 14 people in eight families received Red Cross emergency assistance, including temporary lodging. The workers distributed "comfort kits" to the families who lost their homes. They will also provide counseling and help refer the affected families to services that will provide long-term assistance, the Red Cross said.
Smoke from the fire could be seen for miles and according to NJ Advance Media, some motorists stopped along Rt. 22 to take pictures of the fire.
Fire officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the fire or the cause of the blaze.
Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.
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