PLAINFIELD – An early morning fire Monday at a West 7th Street apartment building with safety concerns, allegedly due to landlord neglect, displaced about 40 tenants and sent 15 to the hospital, according to city officials.
City officials expressed thanks that no one died and wished those taken to the hospital a swift and complete recovery.
Investigators believe an electrical fault or a lithium battery may have been the cause of the fire, city officials said.
As of 4:30 p.m. Monday, 35 of the 42 displaced families will be allowed back into their apartments Monday night, and the Red Cross is assisting the remaining seven families with shelter, city officials said.
About 40 tenants were initially temporarily housed at the Plainfield Performing Arts Center, where meals were provided in collaboration with the Plainfield school district, while arson investigators conducted their investigation.
"We understand the immense stress and disruption such an event causes in the lives of those involved, and we are committed to ensuring that every resident receives the support and resources they need during this time," a statement from the city said.
Under state law, a landlord must return the tenant's security deposit within five days in case of fire, condemnation, or evacuation. Additionally, if, after receiving the security deposit, the tenant moves back following a displacement, the tenant can pay the security deposit over two months, city officials noted.
The city said this law has been brought to the attention of the landlord’s agents. For legal assistance, residents can contact Legal Services of New Jersey at 1-888-576-5529.
The city also encouraged community members to extend their support to neighbors who have been impacted by the fire.
Just before 5 a.m. Monday a fire was reported at the multi-story apartment building located at 515 W. 7th St. Mayor Adrian Mapp and other city officials responded to the scene, evaluating the severity of the situation and making a needs assessment. according to the city's statement.
ABC New York reported flames were seen coming from third-floor windows. At the scene tenants reported the building has not had heat since the cold weather began, and residents have been using space heaters to stay warm.
The building is next to 501 W. 7th Street which was condemned in August due to unsafe and unsanitary conditions displacing 300 tenants. Both buildings have code violations and the same landlord, Cyclone Investment Group.
Among the health violations found at 501 West 7th St. were damaged sewer pipes, sewer pipes leaking sewage on the floor, missing and damaged radiators, broken toilets, a lack of fire escapes, missing and broken hot water heaters and stoves, excessive mold, missing and broken smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, leaking roof, hanging electrical wires, no hot water and rodent infestations.
Buildings on Arlington Avenue and Kensington Avenue, which also have the same landlord, were previously condemned.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected by the apartment building fire at 515 W. 7th Street. While the administration indicated that this building met safety standards unlike its condemned neighbor, we earnestly hope this remains the case," Councilman Richard Wyatt said in a Monday Facebook post. "Sadly, this incident took place right before the holiday season. We await more details and encourage the community to stay informed for updates as we unite in offering our support to those affected."
Wyatt also expressed gratitude to the Plainfield's Bravest and the fire departments of other municipalities for their efforts.
The city is appealing a judge's ruling denying the appointment of a rent receiver to oversee repairs at the apartment buildings condemned this summer by the city, that displaced hundreds of residents.
Suzanne Russell is a breaking news reporter for MyCentralJersey.com covering crime, courts and other mayhem. To get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today
This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: Plainfield NJ fire displaces residents from apartments under probe