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Six Homes Demolished After Condo Complex Blaze [UPDATE]

One firefighter sustained minor injuries; Residents were evacuated and none were hurt in large fire that affected 16 Society Hill homes Wednesday morning

The remnants of six Society Hill II condominium units were bulldozed Wednesday afternoon, after a large fire ravaged a 16-unit block on Sassafras Court, Assistant fire chief, Ed Garza said. 

“They were unstable, because they were burning as long as they were,” Garza said of why the few pieces left standing after the hours-long fire had to be reduced to nothing.

“With the strong winds [Wednesday night], we didn’t want to take the chance that it would be blown down and hurt someone,” he said.

No residents were hurt in the fire, which completely destroyed six Society Hill condo units and partially damaged ten others, authorities said.

One Mahwah firefighter was transfered to Valley Hospital during the fire to be treated for minor burns. "Embers fell behind his collar and burned his neck," Garza said. The burns were, "minor in nature," he said.

All of the units connected to 754, 755, 768 and 769 Sassafras Court, which were completely destroyed by the fire, were evacuated when the fire broke out, at about 9:41 a.m. Wednesday, Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli said.

The Mahwah fire department battled the blaze for over an hour Wednesday morning. During the course of the fire, the second and third floors of the complex collapsed into the first floor, officials said.

Of the four units consumed by the fire, two were occupied and two were vacant, Batelli said. The occupied units were evacuated.

From a “very preliminary” investigation, Batelli said authorities believe the fire started in one of the vacant apartments that was undergoing renovation.

“No workers were [in the unit] at the time of the fire,” Batelli said. However, investigators believe there was a worker at the building Tuesday. Police, fire and rescue officials are working to contact the owner of the unit and worker as part of the investigation into the cause of the blaze, Batelli said.

The cause is unknown at this time, authorities said.

A crane was moved to the scene to demolish the remaining debris, authorities said. Firefighters were on the scene until about 3 p.m., dousing areas of the condos when snow from Winter Storm Athena started falling.

A few dozen residents who lived in the affected 16 units gathered in the Society Hill Clubhouse Wednesday afternoon after being cleared from the surrounding units. Officials were making arrangements for the displaced residents to get housing for the night.

This fire was the second the Mahwah FD responded to Wednesday. The first was a blaze that destroyed a garage and tool shed at Camp Yaw Paw, authorities said. That fire is "suspicious," and currently under investigation by the PD's arson investigator, police said.

In addition to units from all of Mahwah's emergency service departments, fire departments from Wyckoff, Ramsey and Suffern, N.Y. also responded to the Society Hill fire.

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Text news tips to 201-706-1984, or email jessica.mazzola@patch.com. Get updates on the Mahwah Patch Facebook and Mahwah Patch Twitter.

Patricia Hurley November 07, 2012 at 05:33 PM
@Andy I did not know that. But this comes 2 days after 2 cars were burned in the same complex at 1am...Seems strange to me
S Smith November 07, 2012 at 05:43 PM
I live on Mulberry Drive just up the street and I watched the condos collapse. They are the 2 end units that are closest to the pool.
Terry November 07, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Just was over there, know the woman whose townhouse it is, yes it did collapse just a mess over there now, it's the townhouse on the corner of sassafras and crescent i believe is the side street
Terry November 07, 2012 at 05:47 PM
the townhouse and condo right behind it completely burned out but still standing alot of the residents were coming out of the poolhouse with coffee
Scott Esposito November 07, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Sassafras and Elderberry...
Paul Ostrowski November 07, 2012 at 05:49 PM
My buddy lives at 783 Sassafras...his unit is OK, just smoky...feel bad for those who lost their homes with a nor' easter coming....hopefully a donation will be set up to contribute to.
Terry November 07, 2012 at 05:51 PM
I think the address is 782 sassfras
Don November 07, 2012 at 06:22 PM
I live in Phase 1 on Linden - if people needs help of any kind - food, blankets, etc - please reply to the thread and let us know how we can help
Maria November 07, 2012 at 08:04 PM
How can neighbors help? Please let us know, what is needed, where to bring things and when. Devastating to see. My heart breaks for these people.
Mahwah November 07, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Yes...please someone post on here where we cn bring clothes...I have access to various sizes new clothes.
Pam Tabback November 07, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Not sure if this is a good idea, but maybe if a group gets together, we can have a bake sale or something like that to raise money to help those who lost their homes. I know I would be up for it. Anything I can do to help!!
Scott Esposito November 07, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Agreed Pam and everyone else willing to help out. I will update the community website this evening with whatever info I can get. And will post link then.
Suzy November 07, 2012 at 09:37 PM
Hello all - copying and pasting from another article on the Patch regarding donations for Sandy victims: Jessica - in light of the fire in Society Hill, if there are any needs of the families displaced, we will help them out too. Not only the homes that were on fire, but neighboring homes with water/smoke damage. Thanks! I currently have a drop off sight at Ridgewood Movers on Corporate and the Fire Department are also collecting to be brought there. When we find out who is displaced and what they need, we will be able to help them!!! Thanks! Suzy Mahwah Elves
renata November 08, 2012 at 03:59 AM
Thanks to all the first responders!! Our unit was saved from the fire!
Judi Neeb November 08, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Bake sale to raise money is great idea please post on here so we can all help. I live on Raintree and will donate, bake, give clothing, blankets anything to help. I pray for those who lost their homes today. Judi
J November 08, 2012 at 11:59 AM
Please let's not forget to say thank you to all wonderful emergency personnel, most whom our volunteers. They have been working non stop since Sandy and then went on to battle two major fires in one day.
Susie November 08, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Suzy, can you let me, Omar or Jeremy know how The Plant community can help? I moved from Sassafras Ct townhouse to Paddington Square condo 15 months ago. Praying for my former neighbors but would like to help in tangible ways as well.
Judi Neeb November 08, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Thank you to everyone who worked so diligently to get everyone out safely!
Lisa L November 08, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Thank you to all over wonderful emergency personnel. Has anything been posted yet about what these people need or how we can help them?
JP November 08, 2012 at 02:55 PM
They are absolutely the best! Does anyone know the cause of the fire yet?
Andy Schmidt November 08, 2012 at 03:15 PM
JP, the Bergen Record was hinting that the fire was thought to have started near the utility box. On the other side of the wall was the apartment that's being renovated - where the sheetrocking had not yet been completed and thus the fire-resistent insulation was not yet in place to slow down the spreading.
Scott Esposito November 08, 2012 at 03:18 PM
The community website has been updated to include some of the info I have gathered. I did not put everything, because we are still working on a simplified solution, and do not want to make helping a confusing process! The Society Hill II website is located at http://www.kilmerwoods2.com
nancy reynolds November 08, 2012 at 10:13 PM
I moved from cottonwood way 11 years ago. I hope everyone is okay. Nancy Reynolds Richmond Va.
Scott Esposito November 12, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Because all of the family needs are different, the most efficient way to help those displaced (there are 16 displaced families) would be to donate gift cards for food stores, pharmacies, home goods and clothing stores and restaurants etc. There is a donation box set up at the clubhouse in Society Hill Kilmer Woods 2, located at 880 Juniper Way.
Judi Neeb November 13, 2012 at 01:43 AM
How about a prepaid cell phone??????
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Judi Neeb December 01, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Does anyone know how the displaced families are doing and is there anything that they need????
Terry December 01, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Hi Judi, me and my sister live on Poet's Way and we thought the best way to help the displaced families was to donate a gift card that way they can purchase whatever it is that they need.
Judi Neeb December 02, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Ty Terry where do i send it?.
Terry December 02, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Hi Judi so sorry for getting back to u so late, u can send a gift card to village II clubhouse i'm pretty sure they're still accepting donations.

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