Often working the night shift as a nurse, Belleville resident Maria Deocampo usually wakes up around 11 a.m.
Friday was different.
“I woke up to the cat meowing and the alarms going off,” Deocampo said standing outside her apartment building in a bathrobe. “I smelled smoke and I see fire people telling me to get out.
Walking with a damp cloth over her mouth, she found that her third floor unit was too smoke-filled to walk through. Firefighters extended a ladder to her window and guided her and her cat, Chester, down an extended fire engine ladder to the ground.
The fire started on the first floor apartment underneath Deocampo’s unit. Belleville Fire Department Battalion Chief Rich Cavanagh said that while the fire was believed to a kitchen fire, the causes are under investigation.
The fire was reported shortly after 8 am. When firefighters responded, smoke was visible from the first and second floor. Cavanagh said that according to one account, the blinds in the windows were visibly melting.
Firefighters were able to connect to a nearby fire hydrant and carry a hose through the front door of the first floor apartment. Within 40-50 minutes, the fire was contained.
Firefighters from Montclair, Bloomfield, Orange, East Orange and Nutley provided mutual aid.
Chester the cat wasn’t the only four legged resident rescued from the fire. While no one was home on the first two floors during the fire, Cavanagh said firefighters rescued a dog from the building.