More than 60 Families Displaced by Massive Fire
Late afternoon on Saturday, September 28th, a fire broke out in the top floor of a North Bergen five-story apartment building that housed 60 apartments. Luckily, everyone made it out of the building alive. The fire raged for hours and an adjacent building, also housing 60 units, was evacuated overnight as a precaution. More than 200 people were displaced that evening.
American Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteers were at the scene to provide comfort and emergency assistance to help displaced families with immediate needs such as shelter, food and clothing. A reception center was opened at the high school and the Red Cross, together with Mayor Nicholas Sacco and township officials, worked through the night to find temporary lodging for families who had no place to stay.
And the community of North Bergen stepped in to help. Township volunteers set up space at Our Lady of Fatima to receive donated items and established designated areas for the Red Cross and North Hudson Community Action Corp to meet with the affected families to provide information and assistance.
More than 12 Red Cross volunteers were on hand to help with case work Monday afternoon. The large room was abuzz as a constant flow of community members stopped by to drop off donated goods and offer their support. Helpful announcements offering information were made by the police department over loudspeakers as affected families comforted each other while moving from one assistance area to another.
Fifteen-year-old Nicholas Sanchez sat in a quiet corner of the room comforting a very dear friend – his dog Pearl. Nicholas was not at home the night of the fire and said he was sick with worry and guilt about his beloved pet.
“I wasn’t there to get her out of the apartment,” says Nicholas as he holds Pearl closely in his arms, gently petting her head. “I didn’t know if she was trapped inside, wandering lost outside somewhere, or if she was gone.”
Firefighters found Pearl Sunday afternoon. She was hiding curled up under Nicholas’ bed, soaking wet and shivering. Pearl was rushed to an animal hospital and treated for smoke damage to her eyes and was given a nice bath to clean the sooty residue out of her fur. It’s hard to imagine what Pearl must have gone through with sirens blasting and the incredible amount of water continuously pouring down from above as the firefighters worked hard to battle the blaze.
Extremely relieved that Pearl, although shaken, is OK, Nicholas said he doesn’t want to focus on what he’s lost but will instead focus his attention on comforting Pearl.
Meanwhile, the Red Cross and the North Bergen community will focus on comforting Nicholas and all of the families affected by this disaster.
The Red Cross has provided emergency assistance, including temporary lodging and assistance for food, clothing and supplies to at least 55 families – more than 105 people – who were affected by Saturday’s fire in North Bergen.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit the North Jersey Region on Twitter at @RedCrossNorthNJ.