More than three dozen people were displaced after a gas explosion leveled two multifamily homes, seriously damaged a third and affected at least a dozen other dwellings, fire officials said.
Paterson Fire Chief Michael Postorino said that no tenants or residents in surrounding homes were hurt in the blast that "flattened" 16 and 18 Goshen Avenue shortly before 9:24 a.m.
But 38 people were either displaced or left homeless by the blast, and 15 firefighters were evaluated at hospitals for ruptured ear drums and other minor injuries.
Postorino said the department got several calls from homeowners in the area who reported smelling gas as they got ready for the day at about 9 a.m.
When they arrived, crews heard hissing coming from the gas source and they worked quickly to clear 11 residents from the two homes and other dwellings throughout the area before the explosion.
"They did what they were trained to do," he said. "They got everyone out."
Chopper 4 footage from after the blast showed utility crews and firefighters crowding around the the pile of rubble left behind from the blast. Windows, shards of wood and shingles were strewn about the block, covering cars, the sidewalk and street dozens of feet from the two homes.
The homes on either side of the blast also appear to have some damage. Postorino said that one of the homes had serious structural damage, and at least a dozen others nearby had everything from blown-out windows to damage from flying debris.
Postorino said that several firefighters sustained minor injuries battling the blaze after the blast.
He said that once the fire is fully extinguished excavation work will begin, and firefighters will look to see if anyone was trapped in the rubble.
He said the department believes all tenants in the home are accounted for but will search the wreckage to verify that assertion. Earlier on Tuesday, city councilman Ken Martin said that one person was thought to be unaccounted for.
Several residents nearby told NBC 4 New York they smelled gas before the blast, and several said they felt shaking when the homes exploded. Store owner Charlie Hayek said that he initially thought a car exploded but was shocked when he saw the homes reduced to rubble.
"We shook," Hayek said. 'We shook, and we knew it wasn't a car accident."
Hayek added that the firefighters' quick actions likely saved lives.
"If it happened 10 minutes before it would have been a lot worse," he said.
Gas service and power were both shut off after the blast, both Postorino and PSE&G said in a statement.
The cause of the leak that sparked the blast wasn't immediately clear.
The blast comes a week after house explosion in the Bronx where a FDNY battallion chief was killed by falling debris. Authorities said the Bronx blast might have been caused by a tampered gas main.
Two people have been arrested in connection with the explosion.
Ann Givens contributed to this report.