ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — More than two dozens nuns and a priest were rescued after a blaze broke out on the grounds of St. Michael’s Villa in Englewood Cliffs on Wednesday morning.
The fire started outside near an air conditioning unit and several cars before traveling up an elevator shaft to the fourth floor of the building, investigators said.
Flames shot through the roof of the building, which is owned by the sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported.
Police officers were first on the scene, rushing through the smoke to help everyone get out safely.
“Everybody is alive and well and nobody was injured or hurt,” Englewood Cliffs Police Chief Michael Cioffi said. “But several officers did suffer smoke inhalation. They haven’t gone to the hospital, they’re just on oxygen.”
The retirement complex serves as a convent and an infirmary. Several nuns were wheeled out of the complex in hospital beds.
“So that building was able to be evacuated with the hospital beds, with the nurses that were present,” Cioffi said. “With the doors, they were actually able to open them up and walk the beds outside.”
“The prayers were flying,” Sister Francis Scanlon said. “The fire system went off and we all walked down to where we were supposed to be. Then the firemen were there in five minutes or less.”
The building sustained smoke and water damage, with a lot of broken windows, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported.
Cioffi said officers were able to get everyone in the building out safely.
“The doors were locked, we were banging on the doors, to make sure everyone got out,” Cioffi said.
The building once served as a orphanage in the 1950s that burned down and was rebuilt. Nowadays, the nuns help the poor, sick and blind, and they are well loved in the community.
The cause of the fire was not immediately known.