ELIZABETH — An early morning four-alarm fire at 234 Orchard Street claimed the life of one woman and critically injured her daughter yesterday, according to Mayor J. Christian Bollwage. Records indicate that the owners of the property are Benjamin and Isabel Salazar.
After receiving an early Wednesday morning call at 2:35 a.m., fire officials rushed to the scene, where the house was already fully engulfed in flames. The blaze required the help of every fire company in Elizabeth, as well as assistance from Union County Mutual Aid and fire departments from Milburn, Newark and Maplewood.
According to Bollwage, it was extremely difficult for the fire crews to reach the residents as the windows were thwarted by bars that were installed on the windows. Emma Valdiva Ramirez, 49, died in the fire and her daughter, Brenda Vasquez-Valdiva, 18, remained in critical condition Wednesday afternoon. The cause of death will be officially determined by the Union County Medical Examiner’s Office.
In addition, five Elizabeth firefighters, two police officers and a Maplewood firefighter were also injured during the rescue operation. They were taken to several hospitals in the area.
Fire Chief Thomas McNamara stated that while the investigation is fully underway, it looks as though the fire was caused by faulty wiring on a garage that had been illegally converted into living quarters. The City of Elizabeth Construction Department has found no record of any permits being obtained for this conversion, as files show it is still listed as a garage. Officials believe the unit was occupied by six different people in five rooms.
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