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Early morning fire destroys New Jersey nonprofit that specializes in helping people in emergencies

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. — A huge fire at a well known charity organization destroyed all kinds of food and supplies that were supposed to be handed out Wednesday.

The building in Piscataway is home to the nonprofit Fish, Inc., which helps people in emergency situations. Now, it is facing its own emergency. In fact, there was supposed to be a food and clothing drive there in the morning, but all of the items were destroyed.

“Normally, we respond to people in the community who have fires and floods, and now it’s our turn, and it’s just heartbreaking,” said Lisa Couch, the nonprofit’s president.

Thick smoke blanketed New Market Road, where at 7 a.m. a fire quickly burned through a building that has housed employees that have helped the elderly, homeless, and people in need since it opened in the 1970s.

Couch said Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are held there daily, and the nonprofit feeds and clothes up to 400 people per week.

“We were supposed to open at 9 a.m. and distribute food and we actually have people whose cars are trapped in the parking lot because they can’t get out. So, they are not getting any food,” Couch said. “That’s my biggest worry. Those people need food and I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Couch said.

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Officials are still investigating what started the blaze.

“We don’t know. The building is well over 100 years old. It’s the old blue-type construction, so once a fire happens, there’s no fire stops in these old buildings. It goes right up to the roof,” Piscataway Mayor Brian C. Wahler said.

Wahler said the building will likely be deemed unsafe and have to be knocked down. Residents said they feel the nonprofit’s pain.

“It’s sad, because I come to Mass every morning here and to see that, my heart is torn,” Piscataway resident Maria Villaverde said.

“It’s going to take a while to recover from this. I think of all the produce downstairs in the basement that is gone now,” Bill Fennelly said.

“They helped a lot of people. They helped a lot of homeless. They did many, many drives. It’s just a big loss,” Paul McMillen added.

The president of the nonprofit said she has already received calls from other food pantries in the area, offering their help and support. She doesn’t know how or when yet, but said Fish, Inc. will find a way to bounce back.

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Source: CBS

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