It’s ‘devastating’ — Community rallies after fire kills 2-year-old, displaces 85 people
UNION CITY — After a fire left dozens of people homeless and took the life of a young boy, community members are working together to help people affected by the blaze.
In a post on the city's Twitter page, Mayor Brian P. Stack said the fire, which happened just after 1 a.m. on Saturday, spread quickly due to the winds. That caused more damage to other surrounding properties, including Saints Joseph and Michael Church.
"It's absolutely devastating," Stack said. "The loss the parents of this little boy are experiencing is unimaginable and truly heartbreaking."
The mayor added: "We all hold our loved ones a little tighter tonight having heard the news of this tragedy."
At least 85 people were displaced by the early-morning fire. The child, identified as 2-year-old Eddie Junior Gonzalez in multiple news reports, was trapped by flames. His father tried to run in and rescue his son, but he was already badly burned and held back by firefighters, according to an ABC report.
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin from the Archdiocese of Newark released a statement following the fire as well: "I express my sorrow and the tragic loss of life and the injuries that numerous residents and firefighters suffered in the fire that ravaged several buildings including the worship space at Saints Joseph and Michael Church, in the early morning hours of Saturday, March 4."
The Cardinal thanked the first-responders who helped at the scene during, and after the blaze as well.
On its Twitter feed, the Red Cross of New Jersey said 36 people were "displaced" by the fire, and were being provided shelter at the church.
Stack said more than 50 people in total were left homeless by the fire and were helped by the Red Cross as well as the city.
As a result of the fire, the cardinal said the priests from the church will move into St. Anthony of Padua Parish. Masses, he said, will be held at the Mother Seton School on New York Avenue as well as at the Veterans Memorial school "through the courtesy of the City of Union City."
In an effort to further help recovery, Stack said, his own civic association offered to pay for the boy's funeral. Stack said it was "the least I can do for this family."
The mayor said with many of the people losing their personal belongings, there is a great need to provide various forms of help in the days ahead.
His office will be collecting monetary donations which will then be used to help the victims.
"I ask everyone to keep in your prayer all who have been affected by this terrible accident," Tobin said.
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com