PATERSON, NJ - If not for the two-minute response by the Paterson Fire Department, action by local firefighters that, even after 25 years of service, Paterson Fire Chief Brian McDermott found “amazing,” and the assistance of fire departments from 19 surrounding towns, Saturday’s “devastating” fire at Straight and Narrow would have been “catastrophic,” Mayor Andre Sayegh said at a Sunday press conference.

Surrounded by local leaders, fire and police officials, and representatives from several organizations, including the American Red Cross, NJCDC, Oasis- A Haven for Women and Children, and the Boys & Girls Club of Paterson, providing support to the more than 200 residents of the facility displaced, Sayegh said they are now jointly engaged in a “humanitarian effort.”

“We are a united front” to help those impacted, Sayegh said.

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Among those speaking was Congressman Bill Pascrell who said he has already been in touch with federal agencies for assistance, and Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter who offered the support of the state government. St. Joseph’s Health CEO Kevin Slavin added that the New Jersey Department of Health has already stepped up offering the necessary approvals for the health care facility to accommodate some of the detox patients normally cared for by Straight and Narrow.

The fire, McDermott said, began just after 11:00 a.m., and was one that, including the eventual demolition of the destroyed building, required firefighters to be on the scene for more than 24 hours. While embers touched off two blazes that were quickly brought down by supporting fire companies, the blaze was contained to the one building, something McDermott said was remarkable given the age of some of the surrounding structures.

While the cause is unknown an investigation into its origin, currently not thought to be suspicious, has been launched.

Straight and Narrow CEO Scott Milliken said the response they have received since the fire broke out has been “overwhelming,” and shared that of the 200 residents that were forced to evacuate with “nothing but the clothes on their backs,” 150 were to be relocated into adjacent building in the coming hours, and the additional 50 would be supported by their sister facility in Passaic.

Like the others to speak, despite the destruction Milliken struck a positive tone thanking all that have responded and offered assistance, reminding those gathered that “buildings can be replaced, people can not.”

Showing the spiritual side of the operation, one that operates under the umbrella of the Diocese of Paterson, Monsignor Herb Tillyer offered the strongest word of resilience when he said that “we are back in action, we’re saving lives,” important, he added, because that is their “sacred mission.” 

Click here to find out how you can donate to help the victims of the Straight and Narrow fire.


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