Three young girls and one woman are dead after they were trapped behind a metal gate while trying to escape from a five-alarm fire at furniture store in New Jersey.
The devastating blaze occurred on Monday night at a two-story commercial building in Elizabeth that housed a dollar store on the ground floor and a furniture shop on the second level, Kelly Martins, a public information officer for the city, tells PEOPLE.
Authorities believe the fire was sparked by a soda machine located on the ground floor and the flames quickly spread to the upper level, where all the victims were located.
The victims initially tried to escape through a rear staircase that connected to the dollar store, but the smoke was too heavy and pushed them to another exit that was blocked by a metal gate, according to Martins.
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