Korean American community steps up to help victims of Edgewater fire

January 23, 2015
Avalon apartment in Edgewater, N.J., goes up in flames Wednesday. (Korea Times file)

Avalon apartment in Edgewater, N.J., goes up in flames Wednesday. (CBS)

A devastating fire broke out at the luxury Avalon apartment complex in Edgewater, N.J., Wednesday, dislocating about 500 residents — about 100 of them Korean American — and destroying 240 homes out of 408.

The local Korean American community is pulling together to provide relief for those affected.

The Korean American Association of New Jersey called an emergency meeting Thursday.

Association President Yoo Kang-hoon, in an appeal to other Korean American organizations and businesses, said ramen and water would be provided for displaced residents.

The New York Korean Consulate General started an emergency service for affected Koreans inside Palisades Park, N.J., on Friday.

“Most of the Korean victims ran out without anything with them,” said Consul Kang Yoo-min. He said many will need new identification and immigration papers.

The fire at the complex was the second in 15 years in the same location and is being considered as one of the worst in Bergen County history.

Authorities determined the fire “totally accidental” Friday and pinned the origin on faulty plumbing repairs.

No one died during the fire, which took more than 15 hours to contain.

For hundreds of residents, the fire took everything they owned.

One Korean resident, identified as fortysomething Lee, left the apartment after hearing an alarm go off without any special notice. Lee, thinking it was just a small mishap, left everything behind.

Moments later, the unit burst into flames. It is now one of the hundreds that have completely collapsed, scorched and tattered beyond recognition.

“The [complex's] slow response to the situation needs to be investigated,” Lee, who kept a large amount of cash inside the apartment, said.

Another resident, Jung, agreed on a need for investigation. He said the complex sent out an email saying it was not a big fire, which he received around 6:25 p.m. on his way home from work.

“The alarm had gone off a few times during the summer, so my wife didn’t think too much of it and left the house. We lost everything,” he said.

Other organizations like the Korean Community Center and Beautiful Foundation USA also stepped up, offering counsel and extra hands.

For more information on how to help, contact the association at 201-945-9456.