By Maddy Vitale and Donald Wittkowski
An elderly woman remains unaccounted for in a wind-whipped fire a block from the ocean in Sea Isle City. One home was destroyed and another two were badly damaged in the multi-alarm fire Thursday, authorities said.
The fire broke out around 11:30 a.m. on 54th Street at Landis Avenue and swept through three adjoining duplexes. One duplex was burned to the ground, while two others were badly damaged.
The Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office issued a statement Thursday evening saying it is conducting a joint investigation with Police Chief Thomas McQuillen and the Sea Isle Police Department.
In the statement, Prosecutor Jeffrey H. Sutherland said two residents of 29 54th Street were transported to the hospital for treatment of burns and smoke inhalation.
“At this time, an additional family member, an elderly female, is unaccounted for,” the statement said.
According to Sutherland, detectives from the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, Sea Isle Police and members of the Cape May County Fire Marshal’s Office are investigating the cause and origin of the fire, which has not yet been determined.
Police are asking the public to avoid the area to allow emergency personnel to continue working.
Strong winds spread the flames from home to home. At 2:30 p.m., flames were still popping up out of the roof of a three-story duplex on the corner of 54th Street and Landis Avenue as firefighters tried to extinguish the stubborn blaze.
Windows blew out while firefighters used a ladder truck to try and douse the flames.
Anthony and Angela Greto, who live at 109 54th Street, watched firefighters trying to contain the blaze.
The couple said when they walked up to the scene, flames were shooting out of the three residences and smoke filled the air.
“I heard a man pulled a woman from the house,” Anthony Greto said. “I thought he was a construction worker. I saw the cops shaking his hand, so I thought she must have been all right.”
Fire companies from Ocean City, Strathmere, Upper Township, Belle Plain and Avalon helped Sea Isle fight the fire.