PASSAIC – Another fire.
Less than a week after a night fire displaced 80 city residents, another residential blaze – this time on Gregory Avenue – emptied twin apartment complexes and deposited 200 people to the gymnasium of Passaic High School.
Without a home a day before Easter, a woman sobbed into a cellphone as she wandered the gym.
The city is reeling.
Last Tuesday night, Acting Mayor Hector Lora responded to the scene of a fire on the other side of his city, which fire officials fought all night long.
On Saturday those same firefighters reactivated the hook and ladders, and a baseball cap-wearing Lora walked among them.
In a tough, five-way election fight scheduled for May 9th, Lora told InsiderNJ that the fire started around 1 p.m. City fire crews and multiple crews from area departments remained on the scene all day. Shortly after 6 p.m., firefighters who had battled the fire all day still had their hoses on flames on the top floor visible from the street.
“The fire started on the top floor [of the apartment complex], otherwise this would have been much worse,” the acting mayor said as he worked the scene.
There were no fatalities and no serious injuries.
Lora remained at the disaster area just around the time that the supporters of his rival in the mayor’s race, Richard Diaz, began making their way up the staircase on Main Street and into the bowels of a merengue and salsa fueled rally. Diaz supporters told InsiderNJ that the campaign has intensified in recent days, and accused Lora’s people of stealing Diaz signs. In a spirited room speckled with supporters, they say they have momentum heading toward Election Day.
But Diaz, a former city police director, now has the added challenge of not only fighting city hall, but of fighting a visible and on-the-ground Lora, who consistently shows up at crises and appears engaged and in charge.