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Union City Fires Force 20 Families Out Into Bitter Cold

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When things like this happen and are new to you, you don’t know what to do. Right now I’m lost.

Red Cross opens shelter to assist 77 people displaced by two devastating home fires

A six-alarm fire broke out late Thursday night on 19th Street in Union City damaging several multi-family homes and causing the evacuation of 12 additional buildings.

The  American Red Cross is working with city officials and the North Hudson Community Action Corporation to help comfort and assist the 66 individuals displaced by the blaze and an additional 11 people displaced by a second fire at a multi-family home on New York Avenue. 

The Red Cross opened a shelter for those affected by the fires at Jose Marti Freshman Academy. 

Eliza Espinal’s19th Street home was heavily damaged by the fire. Espinal looked out her kitchen window late Thursday evening and spotted flames covering the ceiling of her neighbor’s living room. Espinal and her husband rushed to wake their 9-year-old son, Chris, and his 2-year-old sister, Neishly.

Espinal quickly grabbed some clothes from the children’s laundry hamper and her daughter’s shoes from the living room when she noticed that the fire had rapidly engulfed her neighbor’s living room. The family fled their home in their sleepwear.

“I don’t have anything,” Espinal said. “My son doesn’t have shoes. No shoes, no clothes, nothing. My daughter either.”

After watching fire fighters battle the flames in frigid temperatures from a warm bus provided by the city, Espinal and her family were brought to the school and spent the night in the Red Cross shelter. Her children are now staying with family out of state, but Espinal plans to sleep in the shelter another evening.   

“When things like this happen and are new to you, you don’t know what to do,” she said. “Cause right now I’m lost.”

Espinal is grateful that her family is safe. 

“Thank God we were awake,” Espinal said. “My husband and I were just thinking about going to sleep – I can’t imagine what might have happened if the fire was later while we were sleeping.”

Meals for the families at the shelter are being provided by Jose Marti Freshman Academy, the city and the Red Cross. Disaster Action Team (DAT) volunteers met all day with affected families to provide Red Cross emergency assistance and will continue to man the shelter in shifts. Red Cross volunteers and members of North Hudson Community Action Corporation will continue working with the families to help them move on to the next phase of recovery.

The Red Cross North Jersey Region responded to 485 home fires and assisted 1,269 families last 2013. 

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

 About the American Red Cross North Jersey Region:

The American Red Cross North Jersey Region provides programs and services throughout the counties of Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren, with a combined population of 5.7 million. The region trains and mobilizes more than 3,000 volunteers who support the delivery of services in the community. Last year, the Red Cross North Jersey Region responded to 485 local home fires, helping 1,269 displaced families; collected more than 26,500 units of blood through blood drives and Red Cross Blood Donation Centers; provided 1,985 military family case services with emergency messages, helping families find assistance and/or get counseling and referrals; and trained 79,341 individuals with life-saving skills in preparedness, CPR, AED use, first aid and aquatics. Follow the North Jersey Region on Twitter @RedCrossNorthNJ.