Firefighter Hurt, 10 Flee After Multi-Alarm Newark (NJ) Church Rectory Fire

Noah Cohen

nj.com

(MCT)

A Newark firefighter was hurt Tuesday while battling a two-alarm blaze at a church rectory in the city’s North Ward, officials said.

The firefighter was hospitalized with second-degree burns to his ears and neck after a fire at St. Lucy’s Church, according to Newark Public Safety Director Brian A. O’Hara, who said city police noticed the smoke and rushed to evacuate the occupied building.

Police Officers Thomas Johnson and Veronica Rivera were on patrol around 2:30 p.m. when they saw smoke coming from St. Lucy’s, authorities said. They alerted firefighters and Johnson went inside to warn the occupants of the Seventh Avenue building.

Johnson found two priests and other people inside, according to O’Hara. Body camera video released by officials showed the officer yelling for people to get out as smoke spread.

“I commend 2nd Precinct Officers Thomas Johnson and Veronica Rivera for their swift action in notifying the Fire Division as soon as they observed smoke coming from the rectory,” O’Hara said in a statement.

“His concern for the wellbeing of community members and his commitment to saving lives is exemplary,” O’Hara said. “The immediate response of Newark firefighters in aggressively fighting this fire is also commendable.”

“This incident could have been much worse had it not been for their diligence and determination to get this fire under control,” the public safety director added.

The fire sparked in a sun porch area near the back of the building and extended to the second floor and roof, officials said. There were no other injuries and firefighters brought the flames under control around 3:30 p.m.

In a statement, St. Lucy’s Church thanked emergency responders and said the fire did not damage the historic church itself. But, two priests that live at the rectory have been relocated, authorities said.

St. Lucy’s was built in 1925 and previously listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation.

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Noah Cohen may be reached at ncohen@njadvancemedia.com

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