UNION CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The mayor of Union City, New Jersey aimed some criticism at the city’s fire department, over its response time to a deadly and destructive fire this past weekend.
As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported, the mayor evaded CBS2’s cameras when pressed for an explanation.
As firefighters were trying to extinguish the vicious flames on Summit Avenue early Saturday morning that killed Eddie Gonzalez Jr., 1, burning embers also spread through the wind to Saints Joseph and Michael Church. The steeple was ignited and ended up toppling down as an even bigger fire raged.
It left the pastor of the church, the Rev. Aro Nathan, devastated. But he still praised the firefighters’ efforts.
“They did what they were able to do that particular night,” Nathan said.
Leading the massive response was North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue, a department responsible for five towns – including Union City. On Monday, published reports quoted Union City Mayor Brian Stack as saying he is not happy with its response time to the church.
CBS2’s Bauman asked to go in and talk to Stack on Monday, seeking to find out why he was not satisfied when the pastor was. But the mayor avoided CBS2’s cameras, with his assistant asking as a gatekeeper.
“He’s meeting with fire victims,” the assistant said.
North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue said it “redirected personnel to the scene from the Summit Avenue fire, called additional alarms and requested mutual aid, making every effort to respond as quickly as possible.”
“I don’t know, but I they really think they did the best they could,” said parishioner John Deluca.
So CBS2’s crew waited and knocked, but the mayor would not tell CBS2 on camera what he thought the department should have done differently.
Stack’s assistant said the mayor stands by his statements, and she said “it wasn’t a criticism of firefighters; it was a criticism of administration.”
Fire and Rescue officials said they are reviewing their response time.