As flames took hold of the Avalon apartment complex in Edgewater on Wednesday, Margaret McGuinness and Mitchell Santana were evacuated from their home in an adjacent apartment complex. The couple watched in horror as the blaze tore through the 240 unit building at 102 Russell Avenue.
McGuinness and Santana are one of the families displaced from their River Road apartment building, located near the fire scene, who may be able to return if the building is deemed safe and utilities are restored. The family is staying with relatives, but hope to return to their home before their two children return to school on Monday.
Wednesday evening, the American Red Cross, together with the Borough of Edgewater, Bergen County Office of Emergency Management and the Edgewater Office of Emergency Management, opened a reception center at the Edgewater Community Center to help the more than 400 families displaced by the massive fire.
Red Cross volunteers were at the center throughout the night to help affected families as they gathered to take shelter from the cold and receive updates on the status of their homes.
The Bergen County Humane Society opened a pet shelter at the neighboring American Legion and had supplies on hand to help those families who evacuated with their animals.
On Thursday, McGuinness and Santana sought assistance at the Edgewater Community Center that is serving as a Multi-Agency Resource Center. County and local agencies, organizations and community groups came together to assist affected families.
A team of Red Cross volunteers were available to help families as they developed recovery plans. The Red Cross coordinated with local agencies and management companies to meet the lodging needs of affected families. Red Cross comfort kits containing personal care items were also distributed to residents.
“Our thoughts are with the families affected by the Edgewater fire during this difficult time,” said Mathieu Nelessen, Regional CEO, American Red Cross North Jersey Region. “The Red Cross and its volunteers remain available and ready to provide emergency assistance and recovery support to families in need.”
The borough had a designated play area for children as their parents took advantage of resources available at the center. Children’s faces lit up as they received plush Mickey Mouse dolls from the volunteers.
Representatives from the Bergen County Action Partnership, Bergen County Executive’s Office. Bergen County Freeholders, Edgewater Police Department, Prompt MD, Bergen County Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), Bergen County Housing Authority, Bergen County Board of Social Service and Bergen County Community Transportation were among those available to assist families at the resource center. Several insurance companies were also available to assist their clients.
Shocked by the intensity of the fire they witnessed, McGuinness and Santana have a heightened awareness about fire safety. The couple spoke with Red Crossers about creating a fire escape plan for their family and intends to practice the plan with their two children.
FIRE SAFETY Red Cross efforts don’t end after the smoke clears. Volunteers across the country are helping to save lives through a nationwide campaign to reduce the number of home fire-related deaths and injuries by 25 percent over the next five years.
The Red Cross is partnering with fire departments and community groups nationwide to canvass neighborhoods, install smoke alarms and deliver fire prevention information. Since the campaign launched in October, the Red Cross has reached more than 36,000 people by installing more than 21,000 smoke alarms.
As part of the campaign, the Red Cross is asking every household in America to take two simple steps that can save lives: checking their existing smoke alarms and practicing fire drills at home.
“It is critical that families take steps now to help reduce the risk of fire-related injuries and fatalities,” said Steven Sarinelli, regional disaster officer, American Red Cross North Jersey Region. “Having functioning smoke alarms and practicing your fire escape plan can help save lives in the event of a fire.”
To learn more about fire safety and access free Red Cross tools and resources to help you and your family become better prepared, visit redcross.org/firesafety.
HELP HOME FIRE SURVIVORS You can help people affected by disasters like home fires and countless other crises by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.