Newark police run into burning church rectory to evacuate priests, 8 others

NEWARK, NJ – Newark Public Safety Director Brian A. O’Hara reports that a Newark Firefighter suffered 2nd degree burns to his ears and neck while fighting a 2-alarm fire in the rectory of St. Lucy’s Church after two Newark Police Officers called in the fire, with one entering the building and evacuating 10 people today.

“I commend 2nd Precinct Officers Thomas Johnson and Veronica Rivera for their swift action in notifying the Fire Division as soon as they observed smoke coming from the rectory,” Director O’Hara said. “And I can’t thank Officer Johnson enough for his bravery in going inside the building and personally evacuating two priests and eight other individuals before firefighters arrived. His concern for the well-being of community members and his commitment to saving lives is exemplary. The immediate response of Newark Firefighters in aggressively fighting this fire is also commendable.”

“This incident could have been much worse had it not been for their diligence and determination to get this fire under control,” O’Hara said.

Officers Johnson and Rivera were patrolling the area just before 2:35 p.m. when they observed smoke emanating from the rectory, located at 118 7th Avenue. They contacted the Fire Division and Johnson entered the building to assist those inside to safety. Responding firefighters located a fire in a sun porch area at the rear of the building. The fire extended to the building’s 2nd floor and roof. A 2nd alarm was called at 2:50 p.m. with some 70 firefighters responding to the scene.

The injured firefighter was transported to St. Barnabas Medical Center for treatment. No other injuries have been reported. The fire was considered under control at 3:26 p.m. Two priests, who reside at the rectory, have been relocated. The cause and origin of this fire is under investigation by the Department of Public Safety’s Arson Unit.

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