New Jersey

Toddler Killed, Father Seriously Burned in Blaze That Ravaged NJ Church, Police Say

What to Know

  • A fire in Union City killed a 2-year-old boy and badly burned his father.
  • Strong winds helped the fire spread from an apartment building to another structure to the steeple of the Saints Joseph and Michael Church.
  • More than 50 people were displaced by the fire.

A toddler was killed and his father was badly burned in a fire early Saturday that spread to several buildings, including a Union City church, authorities said. 

More than 50 people were displaced by the fire that burned buildings near 14th Street and Summit Avenue, including Saints Joseph and Michael Church on Central Avenue. Strong winds helped the fire spread quickly from an apartment building to another structure and then to the steeple of the church. 

The boy, who was nearly 2 years old, was confirmed dead at the scene, North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue Chief Frank Montagne said. The child's father was taken to a hospital burn center for treatment and several others were injured.

The child killed in the fire apparently lived in the building where the blaze started. His name and his father's name have not been released.

gofundme page to fund the toddler's funeral was started by a Union City resident Saturday. The $10,000 goal was reached within five hours, and people continuing to donate.

"It is absolutely devastating," Mayor Brian P. Stack said. "The loss the parents of this little boy are experiencing is unimaginable and truly heartbreaking. We all will hold our loved ones a little tighter tonight having heard the news of this tragedy."

The mayor's civic association has offered to cover the costs of the funeral for the boy. He said it was "the least he could do" for the child's family.

Video shows the inferno engulfing the church tower in bright orange flames from street level to its steeple. 

Disaster workers from the American Red Cross were at the scene helping displaced families, a spokeswoman from the organization said. About 15 families were directly affected by the fire.

"Our hearts are with the families affected by this morning's fire as they cope with this tremendous loss," said American Red Cross New Jersey Region CEO Ana Montero. 

Red Cross workers will provide families affected with health and mental health services, recovery planning and referrals to agencies that may provide long-term assistance.

About 60 to 70 people relocated to a reception center the city opened at the José Martí Freshman Academy neat Summit Avenue, the Red Cross said. Many of those affected were left without power.

The area of 14th Street and Summit Avenue was shut down immediately after the fire was quelled. 

The church was damaged too badly to hold services on Sunday, the Newark Archdioses said. Instead, worshippers can go to the following locations: 

  • Mother Seaton School, 1501 New York Ave.
  • Veteran’s Memorial School; 1401 Central Ave.
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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