PATERSON — A building owned by a rehabilitation center was destroyed by fire Saturday, displacing nearly 300 residents — but the facility vows to continue providing services.

The afternoon fire at the Straight & Narrow center on Straight Street in Paterson sent up black plumes of smoke that could be seen for miles around, even causing rubbernecking delays by drivers on Route 80.

"It is unlike anything I've ever seen," Paterson Mayor André Sayegh said, in a video from the scene of the fire that was streamed on his Facebook page. Sayegh also said that it reminded him of January's massive Marcal fire in Bergen County, which destroyed 31 of 36 buildings at the Elmwood Park property.

Paterson Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale told the North Jersey Record that the Saturday fire was so hot it melted siding and satellite receivers on three homes across the street.

The American Red Cross was on scene to help residents find temporary shelter.

CEO Scott Milliken of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Paterson credited his staff for acting "diligently and professionally" when the fire broke out in a letter on the facility's website.

"Our service recipients evacuated quickly and calmly, and none of our employees or clients were hurt. He said that the facility, which included a women’s counseling office and a 50 bed men’s halfway house was completely destroyed," Milliken said.

He said the building next door at 396 Straight Street which houses all the residential treatment for men and women and their detox hospital unit was not damaged.

"It will take time to rebuild, but Straight and Narrow will continue helping those in recovery during, and long-after the rebuilding process," Milliken said.

He also requested donations of cash to help the facility get back on its feet. A collection of clothing will take place soon, Milliken said.

Service on NJ Transit's Main Bergen Line, which runs through the back of the property, was temporarily suspended on Saturday because of the fire.

The cause of the Paterson fire remained under investigation Sunday.

Meanwhile, demolition was set to start Monday at the Elmwood Park site of the Marcal Paper Mills fire, as reported by the North Jersey Record. The report quoted a statement from Rob Baron, president and CEO of Soundview Paper Co., which owns the property, who said efforts were “extraordinary in scope” because “the fire substantially destroyed multiple buildings at the site and over sixteen acres of our property were severely damaged.”

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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