4 members of Picket family killed in Jersey City fire

Elumae, 80, and William Picket Sr., 81, and two of their sons, who were in their 50s, died in the fire. (3/6/14)

JERSEY CITY - Authorities have recovered four bodies at the scene of a four-alarm fire in Jersey City, a fire department spokesperson said.

Elumae, 80, and William Picket Sr., 81, and two of their sons, who were in their 50s, were initially unaccounted for after the blaze on Grant Avenue was extinguished early Thursday morning. Neighbors say William Picket was a bishop who ran several churches and held prayer services in the house.

The couple was married for 55 years and had lived in Jersey City for 40 years, according to family members. They had 10 children.

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"He was great, great inside the neighborhood," said Edward Cannon. "They tried to help whoever they can. If they were hungry you could go over there and eat."

Elumae and William Picket were well-known in the community. "They were like two little children in love," said family friend Bernadine Byrd. "He called her his little princess and she was always very quiet and sometimes she sang. And those of us who weren't members of her family, we all referred to her as mother."

Neighbors want to know if the outcome would have been any different if firefighters had been dispatched to the correct address. The mixup led to a delay in response. 

Firefighters first arrived at a location on Grand Street, and officials say it took 8 minutes for them to get to the right place. Normal response time is 3 to 4 minutes, officials say.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop tells News 12 New Jersey the original 911 call was so frantic, the dispatcher couldn't tell if the caller was saying "Grand" or "Grant."

Fire Chief Darren Rivers says firefighters arrived on scene and found heavy fire and smoke coming from the building. The fire quickly spread to other buildings.

Utility crews had to secure a gas leak before search and rescue crews were able to enter the building to look for the missing victims.

"It's been a real tough week for these guys, and they've been out here since 1 a.m. in cold, freezing weather doing a job that's brutal," said Fulop.

Fulop says the fire likely destroyed five houses and displaced at least 30 people. The Red Cross and United Way of Hudson County are working to help relocate the residents.

The displaced residents were taken to the Mary McLeod Bethune Life Center at 140 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Jersey City. 

The mayor says the city will review the 911 call and the route taken by the police truck.

For extended Chopper 12 footage over the fire, watch the clip to the left or go to News 12 Extra on Optimum TV channel 612. 

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