From fire to freeze to fund-raiser

Neighbors unite to help victims of Hoboken blaze

This past Wednesday morning, as Hoboken Fire Chief Anton Peskens walked through the six residential units at 505 and 507 Washington St. that were walloped by a fire last weekend, he was nearly speechless describing the damage.
“Everything is…well, frozen,” he said over the phone during his informal inspection. “Right now we’re trying to defrost the staircase. The fire burned through four total stories as it shot up through the roof. We dumped a ton of water as we were fighting the fire and it’s just…destroyed.”
The fire, started around 10 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 13 – during the coldest weekend of the winter so far – and was ultimately put out Sunday.
Fire Chief Peskens said on Friday that while “outwardly” the fire looks not to have been started deliberately, the investigation is still ongoing.
Fourteen firefighters were injured. The first responders received first aid for frostbite, slips and falls, and smoke inhalation. All were released by Monday.

“Thank God nobody died and thank God for the first responders who did a tremendous job.” – Father Robert Meyer
“The cold froze hoses, masks, other equipment that had to be swapped out with reserve equipment…as much as the cold was an issue they also had to deal with high winds fanning the fire,” City Spokesman Juan Melli said.
In all, everyone was evacuated safely including a cat named “Frankie.”
According to Peskens, an assessment still needs to be done before they can determine how much damage the units suffered. Still, he said, the apartments appear to be a “total loss.”
Although all 16 residents were displaced, they assured the city’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) at the scene of the fire that there were friends and family that would take them in.
During his walkthrough on Wednesday, Peskens was asked by one resident of 505 Washington to locate his backpack containing his laptop computer. But as the chief tried to keep his balance atop the solid sheet of ice that covered the floor, it was clear nothing was left amid the charred remains.
The businesses affected by the fire – some by water more than the smoke — included a Verizon store, Karma Kafe Indian bistro, and Dear Hannah clothing store. Washington General Store was affected but posted online that they “were completely unscathed” and will reopen on Wednesday.

Uniting to help the victims

In an effort to help those affected by the fire, the city of Hoboken coordinated with Pastoral Msgr. Robert Meyer of Sts. Peter and Paul to create an online fund-raising page.
“Thank God nobody died and thank God for the first responders who did a tremendous job,” Meyer said last week. “Mayor Dawn Zimmer was very concerned and eager to work with us to provide funds for the people so they could help themselves in the midst of tragedy.”
Meyer said this isn’t the first time the city has partnered with his congregation for a noble effort.
Back in early March 2012, the church took in and sorted donated clothing for those displaced by a four-alarm fire that ripped through 300 Washington St. And seven months later when Superstorm Sandy inundated much of the city, the church was steadfast in providing goods for those in need.
Nearly $5,000 has been raised, not counting any proceeds from the fundraiser event hosted by the church at the Kolo Klub Friday night, Feb. 19. Liz and Anthony Pino – owners of Anthony David – donated food for the event. The total amount raised was not available as of press time.
The overall goal, Meyers said, is $20,000 with a PayPal option also available by searching “Hoboken Fire Victims” at

Rookie officer receives donations

A separate GoFundMe page was set up for Hoboken Police Officer Jalen Williams, who lost all his possessions in the fire.
“Our brother in blue lost everything in a fire that destroyed a building in Hoboken on 2/13. Help us raise money for this young man who puts his life on the line every day to keep us safe,” an organizer wrote on the funding page.
Williams, a patrol officer, just graduated from the police academy in October, Hoboken Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante said.
The goal of $15,000 was reached as of press time to help Williams, with the organizer writing, “We did it! We met our goal. Thank you to everyone who donated, shared, Tweeted and posted. This money will help Officer Williams get back on his feet.”
To make additional donations to Williams, search “Rally for Jalen” at

Steven Rodas can be reached at

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