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Elderly Couple Die In North Plainfield Condo Fire

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A fire at a condo complex in North Plainfield, New Jersey, took the lives of an elderly couple.

1010 WINS' Carl D'Auria reported a three-alarm fire broke out in Building 23 at Regency Village on Sunday. The couple who died lived on the top floor.

A neighbor told 1010 WINS the elderly man was a Vietnam veteran who recently had a stroke and needed oxygen to breathe and that his wife recently had hip-replacement surgery.

"She had hip problems so she could barely walk and he recently had a stroke, and he was on the oxygen thing that he had connected to his nose," Juan Leon said. "I really wanted to get them out because they're really nice people."

Leon explained he kicked down their door in an effort to get them out, but the thick smoke was just too overpowering, nearly causing him to faint.

"That's when the fire just went off because the oxygen tank he had in there, it just lit on fire," Leon said. "We heard pop, pop, pop and it just engulfed the whole thing."

CBS2's Hazel Sanchez reported that investigators are sifting the what little is left of the apartment on Highway 22, as they try to find what caused the fire.

Firefighters said firewalls helped the flames from spreading to neighboring buildings, but then it hit the attic.

"Once it got into the attic, it's a trust-constructed attic," North Plainfield Fire Department Chief William Eaton said. "So that contributed to spreading the fire quicker and a rapid deterioration of the roof."

Residents said flames were over the roof within minutes.

"The fire moved really, really fast and then all of a sudden it was a black smoke," resident Evelyn Vasquez said. "You hear clack, clack, clack and the roof caved in."

The rest of the tenants escaped unharmed, but most lost all of their belongings. Eight units were destroyed in the fire.

New Jersey's Red Cross Disaster Action Team is helping nearly two dozen residents who were displaced by the fire.

There is no word on how the fire started.

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