ELIZABETH - Fire crews fought a 3-alarm fire at an Elizabeth apartment building that forced dozens of people from their homes.

The large fire broke out at Garden Apartments on Cherry Street at approximately 4:30 p.m. Friday.

The Elizabeth Fire Department, along with firefighters from Union and Linden, put the fire out in about 45 minutes but the damage was done.

The initial cause appears to be some construction that was being done in a vacant apartment in the 2-story building.

The fire spread through the back of the building and into the attic.

Everyone got out of the building safely, but for some residents, the loss could have been catastrophic. Dalila Robles is a double amputee who left behind expensive equipment essential to her life.

"I don't want to leave my electric wheelchairs," Robles says. "I don't know if they're ruined. The firefighter told me they had to break down my door. So how can I leave?"

Robles' wheelchairs were unaffected by the fire and water damage, but for other families it will be a long road to recovery.

The apartment manager was helping out the tenants Friday night with a place to stay for the weekend.

Twenty-one of 23 units in the building were occupied.