PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Crews are battling a massive fire in New Jersey where flames broke out at a rehab center.
The heavy smoke could be seen for miles and hundreds were evacuated.
Firefighters have been on Straight Street for the better part of the day trying to get things under control at the facility called Straight and Narrow – which is owned by the Diocese of Paterson's Catholic Charities.
It went up in flames just before 11 a.m. and has been almost completely gutted by the blaze.
Officials say 200 clients there for substance abuse rehab were inside at the time and had to be quickly evacuated.
Authorities on the scene tell CBS2 the building had multiple collapses inside and also a massive explosion that rose 300 feet into the air, blowing out the roof and some bricks.
That explosion was possibly caused by a tank filled with some kind of hydraulic fluid. Making things even more difficult for firefighters, the structure of the facility is very old and made with heavy timber in the 1900's.
In a video posted to Facebook, Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said everyone was evacuated from the building and multiple fire departments had responded to the scene.
The local fire chief told CBS2's Reena Roy that caused the fire to spread very rapidly as people watched in shock.
"I just seen a whole bunch of flames shooting up and things shooting up, so I immediately got my family out and made sure everyone was safe… It was very scary," witness Jose Roman said.
"I was actually in the shower and a friend of mine called me and told me it was on fire. I couldn't believe it… I was glad to hear all the people got out though, that there were no bodies in there," neighbor Michael Livingston said.
Photos and videos show an enormous cloud of black smoke billowing from the building.
Luckily, nobody was hurt in the blaze but officials tell CBS2 the building is a total loss and will likely have to be demolished.
That means the many who live there will be getting help from the Red Cross to find temporary housing.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
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