UPDATE: One of her five children had just pulled Felicia Hernandez De La Cruz out of their burning Paterson home when she suddenly rushed back inside to try and save their dog, witnesses said.
The 53-year-old mom, who ran a local food stand that catered to the community, never made it out.
"She was best known for her empanadas that she sold in front of her house," said Iris Lorenzo of Passaic. "She was so full of life and funny."
Authorities confirmed her death in the pre-dawn fire Sunday that displaced 47 residents from nine families and sent two firefighters to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries.
Two 2½-story wood-frame homes on Summer Street were entirely consumed by flames and three others damaged, one severely, after the blaze broke out at 1:43 a.m.
The fire spread so quickly that it barely took 10 minutes to go to four alarms. A fifth alarm was sounded 15 minutes after that.
Power lines were downed, requiring a PSE&G crew.
Two city firefighters were treated at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston for burns sustained while valiantly trying to save De La Cruz, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
Members of companies in Hawthorne, Totowa, Prospect Park Clifton, Passaic, Little Falls were among more than 120 firefighters mutual aid responders.
Authorities were continuing to investigate the cause while the Red Cross relocated and assisted the displaced residents.
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