Fatality Confirmed In Multi-Alarm Paterson Blaze That Destroys One Home, Threatens Others

UPDATE: Authorities on Saturday confirmed the death of a resident in a late-night Paterson house fire that responders said could have been much worse.

103 Lafayette Street, Paterson
103 Lafayette Street, Paterson Photo Credit: Bill Tompkins (BT Fire Photos)

Firefighters moved quickly to keep the four-alarm Lafayette Street blaze from spreading, snuffing the threat such a fire posed to the neighborhood of tightly bunched wood-frame houses barely two blocks from the Passaic River.

Paterson's bravest responded to a call of a fire with people possibly trapped at 103 Lafayette Street shortly after 11 p.m., Deputy Fire Chief William Henderson said.

Firefighters found heavy flames on the second floor, triggering a second alarm that went to three bells barely 10 minutes later. The fourth alarm was called 10 minutes after that.

Nearly a dozen mutual aid companies responded either at the scene or in coverage -- among them, firefighters from Elmwood Park, Fair Lawn, Haledon, Hawthorne, Little Falls, Paramus, Pompton Lakes, Saddle Brook, Totowa and West Paterson.

Together, companies limited the damage to two surrounding homes while keeping the fire from spreading.

The bulk of the fire was knocked down at 12:45 a.m., more than an hour and half after it began. It was under control a little two hours later.

Two occupants originally were unaccounted for. 

The lone fatality was confirmed after the victim's remains were found amid the debris shortly before 3 a.m., Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes, Paterson Police Chief Ibrahim Baycora and Paterson Fire Chief Brian McDermott said in a brief joint release.

An autopsy will be conducted on the remains later this week, they said, without explaining why.

No other injuries were reported.

Thirteen people in all had been displaced, said Henderson, the deputy fire chief. All had found lodging with family and/or friends, he said. The American Red Cross was available to provide food and clothing.

Authorities didn't officially say they considered the cause of the blaze suspicious, but they did confirm that the Passaic County Prosecutor's Arson Unit was investigating.


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