Apartment complex fire accidentally caused by workers

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New Jersey apartment building fire
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Apartment complex fire accidentally caused by workers
Firefighters battled a massive blaze at an apartment complex in New Jersey that sent flames and smoke into the sky, which could be seen from New York City across the Hudson River.
EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Fire fighters cool off with fire hydrants at the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater along the edge of the Hudson River, New Jersey state on January 22, 2015. Hundreds of people have been displaced after a massive fire engulfed the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater, New Jersey state, leaving much of the complex completely consumed by the flames after several hours. No deaths or major injuries were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Smoke rises as firefighters stand on an ladder near an apartment complex the morning after flames engulfed the building, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in Edgewater, N.J. Authorities had not determined the cause of the fire. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: A view of damaged building after fire fighters cool off with fire hydrants at the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater along the edge of the Hudson River, New Jersey state on January 22, 2015. Hundreds of people have been displaced after a massive fire engulfed the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater, New Jersey state, leaving much of the complex completely consumed by the flames after several hours. No deaths or major injuries were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Smoke rises as firefighters hose water onto a apartment complex the morning after flames engulfed the building, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in Edgewater, N.J. Authorities had not determined the cause of the fire. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Smoke rises as firefighters hose water onto a apartment complex the morning after flames engulfed the building, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in Edgewater, N.J. Authorities had not determined the cause of the fire. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: A view of damaged building after fire fighters cool off with fire hydrants at the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater along the edge of the Hudson River, New Jersey state on January 22, 2015. Hundreds of people have been displaced after a massive fire engulfed the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater, New Jersey state, leaving much of the complex completely consumed by the flames after several hours. No deaths or major injuries were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: A view of damaged building after fire fighters cool off with fire hydrants at the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater along the edge of the Hudson River, New Jersey state on January 22, 2015. Hundreds of people have been displaced after a massive fire engulfed the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater, New Jersey state, leaving much of the complex completely consumed by the flames after several hours. No deaths or major injuries were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: A view of damaged building after fire fighters cool off with fire hydrants at the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater along the edge of the Hudson River, New Jersey state on January 22, 2015. Hundreds of people have been displaced after a massive fire engulfed the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater, New Jersey state, leaving much of the complex completely consumed by the flames after several hours. No deaths or major injuries were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Fire fighters cool off with fire hydrants at the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater along the edge of the Hudson River, New Jersey state on January 22, 2015. Hundreds of people have been displaced after a massive fire engulfed the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater, New Jersey state, leaving much of the complex completely consumed by the flames after several hours. No deaths or major injuries were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Fire fighters cool off with fire hydrants at the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater along the edge of the Hudson River, New Jersey state on January 22, 2015. Hundreds of people have been displaced after a massive fire engulfed the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater, New Jersey state, leaving much of the complex completely consumed by the flames after several hours. No deaths or major injuries were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Fire fighters cool off with fire hydrants at the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater along the edge of the Hudson River, New Jersey state on January 22, 2015. Hundreds of people have been displaced after a massive fire engulfed the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater, New Jersey state, leaving much of the complex completely consumed by the flames after several hours. No deaths or major injuries were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Fire fighters interfere to the flames after a fire broke out in an apartment complex at Avalon in Edgewater, NJ, United States on January 22, 2015. The apartment complex mainly accommodated by Turkish diplomats and no casualities were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Fire fighters interfere to the flames after a fire broke out in an apartment complex at Avalon in Edgewater, NJ, United States on January 22, 2015. The apartment complex mainly accommodated by Turkish diplomats and no casualities were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Fire fighters cool off with fire hydrants at the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater along the edge of the Hudson River, New Jersey state on January 22, 2015. Hundreds of people have been displaced after a massive fire engulfed the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater, New Jersey state, leaving much of the complex completely consumed by the flames after several hours. No deaths or major injuries were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Fire fighters cool off with fire hydrants at the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater along the edge of the Hudson River, New Jersey state on January 22, 2015. Hundreds of people have been displaced after a massive fire engulfed the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater, New Jersey state, leaving much of the complex completely consumed by the flames after several hours. No deaths or major injuries were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Fire fighters cool off with fire hydrants at the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater along the edge of the Hudson River, New Jersey state on January 22, 2015. Hundreds of people have been displaced after a massive fire engulfed the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater, New Jersey state, leaving much of the complex completely consumed by the flames after several hours. No deaths or major injuries were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Fire fighters cool off with fire hydrants at the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater along the edge of the Hudson River, New Jersey state on January 22, 2015. Hundreds of people have been displaced after a massive fire engulfed the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater, New Jersey state, leaving much of the complex completely consumed by the flames after several hours. No deaths or major injuries were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Fire fighters cool off with fire hydrants at the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater along the edge of the Hudson River, New Jersey state on January 22, 2015. Hundreds of people have been displaced after a massive fire engulfed the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater, New Jersey state, leaving much of the complex completely consumed by the flames after several hours. No deaths or major injuries were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Fire fighters cool off with fire hydrants at the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater along the edge of the Hudson River, New Jersey state on January 22, 2015. Hundreds of people have been displaced after a massive fire engulfed the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater, New Jersey state, leaving much of the complex completely consumed by the flames after several hours. No deaths or major injuries were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A local state of emergency was declared after a massive fire engulfed a New Jersey apartment complex across the Hudson River from New York City.
An apartment complex is engulfed by flames, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Edgewater, N.J. Authorities had not determined the cause of the fire. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
A fire was raging Wednesday evening in an apartment complex in Edgewater, New Jersey. As of 6:15 p.m., the fire had been raging for about half an hour on multiple floors of the Avalon Edgewater complex, at 102 Russell Ave. in Edgewater. Heavy flames were seen shooting from the back of the building. No injuries had been reported early Wednesday evening.
Firefighters stand on a ladder while hosing water onto an apartment complex, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Edgewater, N.J. Authorities had not determined the cause of the fire. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Smoke billows from a multi-alarm fire burning in Edgewater, N.J., as seen in New York from across the Hudson River, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. No injuries have been reported in the blaze that broke out around 5 p.m. on Russell Avenue in Edgewater, N.J. Authorities say it appears that everyone in the building was able to get out safely. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
A massive fire quickly spread across an apartment-building complex in Edgewater, New Jersey. No injures have been reported. The cause of fire is yet unknown. (Video: AP)
A person uses a cell phone to take a photograph of a large fire at an apartment complex, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Edgewater, N.J. Authorities had not determined the cause of the fire. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
An apartment complex is engulfed by flames, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Edgewater, N.J. Authorities had not determined the cause of the fire. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
People look over the edge of a cliff at a large fire at an apartment complex, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Edgewater, N.J. Authorities had not determined the cause of the fire. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Police officers stand in the backyard of a home overlooking Edgewater, N.J., where a large fire consumed an apartment complex, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Edgewater. Authorities had not determined the cause of the fire. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Smoke from a fire in Edgewater, N.J., with the George Washington Bridge in the background, is seen from Weehawken, N.J., Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. Authorities had not determined the cause of the fire. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Firefighters stand on a ladder while hosing water onto an apartment complex, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Edgewater, N.J. Authorities had not determined the cause of the fire. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Smoke billows from a multi-alarm fire burning in Edgewater, N.J., as seen in New York from across the Hudson River, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. No injuries have been reported in the blaze that broke out around 5 p.m. on Russell Avenue in Edgewater, N.J. Authorities say it appears that everyone in the building was able to get out safely. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Fire fighters interfere to the flames after a fire broke out in an apartment complex at Avalon in Edgewater, NJ, United States on January 22, 2015. The apartment complex mainly accommodated by Turkish diplomats and no casualities were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Fire fighters interfere to the flames after a fire broke out in an apartment complex at Avalon in Edgewater, NJ, United States on January 22, 2015. The apartment complex mainly accommodated by Turkish diplomats and no casualities were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Fire fighters cool off with fire hydrants at the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater along the edge of the Hudson River, New Jersey state on January 22, 2015. Hundreds of people have been displaced after a massive fire engulfed the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater, New Jersey state, leaving much of the complex completely consumed by the flames after several hours. No deaths or major injuries were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A massive fire at a New Jersey mid-rise consumed 175 apartments and displaced up to 400 residents. Fortunately, no one was injured. The fire broke out Wednesday afternoon at the Avalon at Edgewater, along the Hudson River across from Manhattan.
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EDGEWATER, N.J. (AP) -- Workers doing maintenance at an apartment complex across the Hudson River from New York City accidentally started a fire that caused massive damage and displaced more than 1,000 people, officials said Thursday.

The fire at The Avalon at Edgewater, a complex overlooking the river, was under control but still smoldering Thursday more than a day after it began on the first floor.

At a news conference with Gov. Chris Christie, Edgewater Police Chief William Skidmore said workers doing plumbing work inadvertently started the fire inside a wall.

"A plumbing repair ignited a fire in the wall which then spread through the building," he said. "It was accidental, there was nothing suspicious about it, and we have complete verification and there's no doubt about it."

Two civilians and two firefighters sustained minor injuries. Christie called the job done by first responders "extraordinary" and called the lack of fatalities "an enormous blessing."

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Apartment complex fire accidentally caused by workers
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EDGEWATER, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Fire fighters cool off with fire hydrants at the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater along the edge of the Hudson River, New Jersey state on January 22, 2015. Hundreds of people have been displaced after a massive fire engulfed the Avalon apartment complex in the Edgewater, New Jersey state, leaving much of the complex completely consumed by the flames after several hours. No deaths or major injuries were reported. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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Before speaking, Christie met with town officials including the mayor and fire and police chiefs in the auditorium of the Edgewater Community Center, where the Red Cross and others had set up tables to help displaced residents find apartments, medicine and other services.

"We'll be here to help," Christie told one woman as he took a tour shortly after. "I'm sorry for your loss."

Many residents said they'd lost everything in the fire.

Francisco Gonzalez said he and his wife were at work when the baby sitter watching their 9-year-old daughter called to tell them about the fire. They rushed home. Within 30 minutes, he said, the blaze had turned into a raging fire. The baby sitter and daughter got out, but he said they didn't have time to get anything else.

"This is all that we have," he said, gesturing to his clothes. "But we're healthy. That's the most important thing. And we're together."

Firefighters went door to door Wednesday afternoon as flames moved quickly through the 240-unit structure, Fire Chief Thomas Jacobson said. Mayor Michael McPartland said he watched as firefighters pulled three people out of the burning structure, then saw others go back in and rescue a woman "while the facade was coming down virtually on top of them."

The building's sprinklers were working, but the lightweight, wooden structure fueled the flames and made fighting the fire difficult, the fire chief said.

The building complied with construction and fire codes, the fire chief said, but he added: "If it was made out of cinder block and concrete, we wouldn't have this problem."

McPartland said approximately 240 units were destroyed and 168 units in a nearby complex were saved. He said schools, which were closed Thursday, would remain closed Friday. He said a fund for people displaced by the fire had been set up at gofundme.com/edgewater-fire.

The Red Cross established a shelter for approximately 500 residents who were permanently displaced from the apartment complex, including New York Yankees announcer John Sterling, and approximately 520 who were temporarily displaced from surrounding buildings, the mayor said.

In 2000, a fire started at the same location where a five-story condominium complex was under construction, destroying nine homes and damaging several others. The cause was never determined, although investigators ruled out arson.

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Associated Press writer David Porter in Newark contributed to this story.

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