PASSAIC — Residents of an apartment tried to put out an electrical fire before calling for help, inadvertently causing it to spread to adjacent buildings on Monday afternoon, Passaic mayor Carlos Lora said.

The fire displaced 20 people from their homes, including a 3 -year-old, and sent eight firefighters to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries and heat exhaustion, Lora said in a video on his Facebook page

McCado Battalion Chief Luis Tito Mercado in the video said the delay caused the fire on the first floor to "get bigger and bigger" and spread to a neighboring house. Two other buildings were damaged by smoke and water, Mercado said.

"One of the key things to remember is if you see a fire immediately call the fire department and leave the building. If others are around get your family out. Do not attempt to put the fire out yourself. This will only cause a delay," Mercado said.

The fire quickly spread through the wall from the floor to the attic by the time firefighters did arrive, according to Mercado.

The mayor said he understood the "natural reaction" to want to put out a fire on your own but cautioned about the things that aren't seen with electrical fires

"Sometimes the fire is in the wall and you don't see it so you think you have it under control," Lora said.

"No matter how you perceive the fire you call the fire department right away. You smell smoke? You call the fire department. You have concern? You call the fire department.  It's better that we err on the side of caution than valuable time is lost and an entire property is lost," Lora said.

"At nearby Teterboro Airport Monday afternoon, it was a scorching 95 degrees. The humidity was not high enough to cause a substantial heat index, nor low enough to cause significant fire danger concerns. However, the wind was gusting out of the southwest at 23 mph, which may have hampered firefighting efforts," New Jersey 101.5 chief meteorologist Dan Zarrow said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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