YMCA destroyed by possible arson fire, one resident missing
PERTH AMBOY, N.J. (AP) _ A fast-moving fire that may have been set destroyed a century-old YMCA on Monday, leaving at least one man missing.
At least 50 men had rented single rooms at the YMCA. Officials said the missing man may have escaped unharmed and left the scene.
The blaze at the 100-year-old, four-story building broke out around 6 a.m. and wasn’t declared under control until four hours later. One of the building’s wings collapsed.
Two firefighters and five other people suffered minor injuries.
The fire spread quickly, even though the building had a working sprinkler, and was believed to have started in a fourth-floor room, said Mayor Joseph Vas.
``There may have been an arson attempt last night by a disgruntled resident,″ Vas said.
However, Police Director Tom Cetnar said there been no determination of arson, and added: ``We don’t know anything about a disgruntled resident.″
Initially 17 residents were feared missing, but 16 were located by evening, including three men who returned after a weekend away, said Jay Jimenez, an aide to the mayor.
Although the missing man was believed to have escaped, Fire Chief James Hicks said the rubble would be searched for bodies.
The fire also forced the evacuation of about 17 children taking part in a summer program at a school immediately behind the YMCA.
Perth Amboy is a working-class city of about 40,000 people within sight of New York City.
It was the second fire at the YMCA this year. A fire was set in a wastebasket a few weeks ago. There were no injuries.