Guests knock on doors to save others during 4-alarm Howard Johnson Inn fire on Black Horse Pike

BLACKWOOD, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Dozens of guests were forced to evacuate a Blackwood hotel after a fire early Wednesday morning.

JaYolonda Pritchett and Jesenia Rodriguez of Deptford pounded on doors of the Howard Johnson Express Inn on the 800 block of North Black Horse Pike after seeing the smoke and flames.

"It was huge and very scary. Everyone was running out. I'm waking up everybody; you see everybody running out," Pritchett said.

Pritchett called 911 when the fire broke out around 3:30 a.m.

The women ran from their third floor room, desperately trying to alert other guests. It worked.

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Firefighters battled a 4-alarm fire at the Howard Johson Express Inn on the Black Horse Pike.

"I made that call at 3:30, and from there we just started knocking on everyone's door getting everybody out the hotel; that was the first thing in my head, 'everyone's got to get out of here,'" Pritchett said.

Dyquice Gibson of Lindenwold heard the yells.

"We noticed someone outside was screaming 'fire, fire, fire!'" Gibson said.

When Gibson ran from his first floor room and didn't see many people, he ran back in and also started knocking on doors.

"I decided to go upstairs where the fire was and started banging on doors trying to get people to come outside," Gibson said.

Gibson added, "A lot of people were panicking. They were covered in smoke. They were coughing."

Multiple fire companies responded.

The fire was in two of the three buildings of the hotel.

"They saw heavy fire on one of the rooftops. At that point they started to evacuating the buildings. It quickly spread to a second building," said Lt. Jason Gittens of Gloucester Township Police.

Firefighters blasted water at the flames. It took about two hours to place the fire under control.

The cause remains under investigation.
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