Residents are safe after fire at St. Michael Villa in New Jersey

November 1, 2016

The residents of St. Michael Villa, a regional center for the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, were safely relocated to other residences after a fire seriously damaged the Englewood Cliffs, N.J., facility on Oct. 12. There were 27 women religious and two priests evacuated from the property, said Englewood Cliffs Police Chief Michael Cioffi.

Jan Linley, congregation office manager, told Catholic Health World on Oct. 17 that roughly 30 residents of St. Michael Villa have received temporary shelter at other sponsored ministries, Saint Ann's Home in Jersey City and Holy Name Medical Center's Villa Marie Claire in Saddle River, N.J.

Cioffi said the fire started shortly after 7 a.m. in a steel structure housing air conditioning units and several cars. It moved through an elevator shaft to the fourth floor of St. Michael Villa. Every floor sustained damage, he said. Emergency responders from multiple departments responded to the blaze.

"I don't know if it was by the grace of God," Cioffi said, "but no one was (seriously) hurt or injured."

On-site staff, including those working in an attached infirmary, assisted with the evacuation. Cioffi said several residents were moved to safety using rolling beds and wheelchairs. One firefighter sustained a hand injury, and a few police officers experienced smoke inhalation, he said. One of the sisters had a cat that died from smoke inhalation. The cause of the fire is under investigation; it does not appear suspicious, he said.

The congregation said in a statement, "We are in the early days of planning next steps for recovery, rebuilding and eventual return to our home on the Hudson."

Linley said on Oct. 17 that damage to the building was still being assessed. She said the sisters appreciate all those who have been praying for them.


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