Saturday, March 04, 2017 11:39AM
UNION CITY, New Jersey (WABC) -- A young boy was killed and his father was seriously hurt in a fire overnight Friday in New Jersey.
March 4, 2017: The six-alarm fire ripped through homes and a church in Union City, NJ starting around 1 a.m. Saturday.
The six-alarm fire ripped through homes and a church in Union City, starting around 1 a.m.
It began at homes on Summit Avenue and the wind sent embers to a nearby church, Sts. Joseph and Michael Church at Central Avenue and 14th Street, and surrounding areas. The church has been standing for more than 100 years.
Consumed by flames, the church steeple collapsed onto the street below. Power lines also were down in the area.
The original fire started a block away at a two 3-story frame houses at Summit Avenue and 14th Street. The child who died was in one of the homes.
The fire was under control later Saturday morning, but firefighters remained on the scene to put out hot spots around 8 a.m.
Police are advising motorists and pedestrians to avoid the area.
Ice clings to a cross at Sts. Joseph & Michael Parish located on Central Avenue. which was ravaged in a early morning fire on Saturday, March 4, 2017. Union City, NJ (Robert Sciarrino | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
Robert Sciarrino | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
MaryAnn Spoto | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
updated March 04, 2017 at 2:52 PM
UNION CITY, NEW JERSEY -- A 2-year-old was killed and his father was seriously injured in a fire that ripped through at least three buildings before spreading to a nearby church early Saturday morning in Union City, authorities said.
The fire started around 1 a.m. in a residential building on Summit Avenue, spread to two more residential buildings and then the embers ignited the steeple of Sts. Joseph and Michael Parish across the street, said Union City Police Chief Richard Molinari.
Molinari said police received multiple calls about a fire at 1404 Summit Ave. at 1:02 a.m. and about people trapped inside the building. Encountering heavy smoke when they arrived at the scene, emergency responders helped get people out of the building, he said.
A 2-year-old boy was found dead in one of the apartments, he said. The boy's father suffered serious burns after he tried to get back into the building to get his son, Molinari said. The father was rushed to Saint Barnabas Burn Center in Livingston, he said.
Authorities did not identify the boy or his father. The man lived in one of the apartments with his wife, the child and several other children, Molinari said.
High winds spread the fire to 1406 and 1408 Summit Ave., he said.
About a half hour later, embers from the fire ignited the church steeple, which eventually collapsed, taking down power lines, he said.
Union City Police, the state Fire Marshal's Office and the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office are investigating, he said.
Five firefighters were taken to a local hospital for injuries that were not life-threatening, he said.
David Kaminsky, who lives a block west of the apartments where the fire started, said he woke Saturday morning at 1:30 to the sound of police officers pounding on his front door and telling him to get out.
Along with his 92-year-old grandmother, his mother and his 16-year-old son, he got out of house, he said. The family stayed in their car for warmth, Kaminsky said.
The city and the American Red Cross provided shelter nearby for those who didn't immediately have a place to go, he said.
"I saw nothing but smoke and big huge flames coming from the church - like something from a movie," said Kaminsky, 42.
Kaminsky and his family were allowed to return to their home at 6:30 a.m. but the house is still without power, he said.
A text from PSE&G alerted him that power should be restored by 8:45 p.m. today, but he's not sure that timeframe will hold, he said.
"With all the ice on the power lines, they have a lot of work ahead of them,"
About 15 families were displaced from the three buildings that burned, officials said. About 80 people at temporary shelter at the Jose Marti School at Summit and 18th avenues. Many were from homes that were evacuated around fire, Diane Concannon of NJ Red Cross said.
"Our hearts are with the families affected by this morning's fire as they cope with this tremendous loss," said Ana Montero, CEO, American Red Cross New Jersey Region. "Our volunteers are providing compassionate care and emergency assistance to those impacted by these devastating fires as they take the first steps towards recovery."
Mayor Brian Stack said the community is heartbroken.
"It is absolutely devastating," Stack said in a release. "The loss the parents of this little boy are experiencing is unimaginable and truly heartbreaking. We all will hold our loved ones a little tighter tonight having heard the news of this tragedy."
He said his civic association has offered to pay for the toddler's funeral.
Deacon Richard Flores from the parish said the church was empty at the time of the blaze.
"This is sad, but this is only material (and) the church is within us," he said. "We hope everything goes back to normal."
He said the church will hold services at a nearby school.
The mayor's office has set up a fund for the victims of the fire. Checks or money orders, made payable to the Union City Fire Victims' Fund, can be sent to the following address:
Union City Fire Victims' Fund; City of Union City; Office of Mayor Brian P. Stack, 3715 Palisade Avenue, 3rd Floor, Union City, NJ, 07087.