Edgewater, New Jersey- A fire started yesterday evening in a two-story commercial building that contained several businesses, including a dance studio for children on its second floor. Officials stated that there were about a dozen children in the dance studio when the fire broke out. Several of the children were forced to escape the studio by jumping from a rear balcony, officials stated.
Speaking to reporters shortly after the scene was brought under control, Edgewater Mayor Michael McPartland stated he was down the street from the fire when it started and witnessed Edgewater Police Sergeant James Dalton and local business owner Tony Nehmi rush to the help the children who trapped on the second floor.
“It was kind of dramatic, they didn’t know what to do—the girls were trapped on the second floor and they escape due to the bravery of these two guys right here,” Mayor McPartland said. He further described the two men’s actions as “one of the bravest things I have ever seen.”
A dramatic video reportedly taken by a bystander at the scene depicts several men holding a ladder up a second-floor balcony—which was almost entirely engulfed by flames—and helping multiple children make their way down to safety. In the video, some of the children appear to have been able to climb down the ladder, but moments later, the ladder falls and the remaining children are forced to jump to the ground.
Despite the harrowing scene depicted in the video, it seems everyone who jumped from the balcony was largely left unharmed from the fire, as well as from their fall to the pavement, according to fire department officials.
Edgewater Fire Chief Steve Curry stated preliminary information suggests that the fire started in the rear of the first-floor—where there is an auto body store and also a carwash. Five people were transported to the hospital with non-life threating injuries, Curry stated.
Chief Curry said the cause of the fire is under investigation but initially there was no evidence to indicate it was suspicious in nature.