NJ rehabilitation center to be demolished after weekend fire

PATERSON, N.J. — A New Jersey rehabilitation center will be demolished after a weekend fire displaced several hundred people but caused no reported injuries, authorities said.

The blaze at Straight & Narrow in Paterson, which serves people battling drug and alcohol addiction, was reported just before 11 a.m. Saturday.

Mayor Andre Sayegh said in a Facebook Live video that he was “having flashbacks of Marcal,” referring to the January fire that destroyed the historic paper plant in Elmwood Park.

Paterson fire officials say part of the building collapsed within 40 minutes of the start of the blaze, and an explosion was also heard, possibly a barrel containing “some substance.”

“The explosion was really intense,” Fire Chief Brian McDermott said. “The barrel went up 300 feet easily, blew the roof off.” Residents and neighbors evacuated the area and no injuries were reported.

McDermott said the building will be demolished due to damage sustained from the fire.

Scott Milliken, CEO of building owner Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Paterson, said 50 men transitioning back to society after graduating from drug and alcohol recovery programs lost all of their belongings and “left with the clothes on their backs,” NorthJersey.com reported. Representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency were on hand providing help, he said.

Another 200 people were displaced by power interruptions at neighboring buildings. Officials credited St. Joseph’s Hospital with accommodating 17 detox patients. The American Red Cross New Jersey Region said it was assisting more than 230 people displaced.

Diocese officials called the center’s destruction a huge loss for the diocese and the community at large. Monsignor James Maloney called it one of New Jersey’s largest drug and alcohol counseling centers serving thousands of people each year.

Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale said it appeared that everyone got out safely, but given the number of people in the building officials will have to scour the remains to be sure.

“We will have to go through every piece of rubble to make sure no one was caught in the fire,” Speziale said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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