No injuries were reported at the Straight Street commercial building, which housed the Straight and Narrow rehab center operated by Catholic Charities of the Paterson Diocese.
"That's a big hit for a lot of clients and staff in New Jersey," a substance-abuse professional affiliated with the program said, noting that the program served thousands, making it one of the area's largest of its kind.
In addition to extensive drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, Straight and Narrow operates childcare centers, permanent supportive housing, a medical daycare center and a Family Success Center throughout Passaic County.
There was no immediate word on the possible cause of the fire, which broke out shortly before noon. The county prosecutor's arson investigation unit responded shortly after 1 p.m.
At least three aerial streams and several on the ground were directed on the building, as the fire quickly went to six alarms (five plus city coverage).
PHOTOS COURTESY: Paterson Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale
Train service was halted and PSE&G was asked to cut all power to the area. Westbound Route 80 also was temporarily closed at Market Street. Several vehicles in the area of the building were damaged or destroyed.
City firefighters were able to contain the blaze with assists from their colleagues from various other North Jersey departments.
"It is unlike anything I've seen in Paterson," Mayor Andre Sayegh said on Facebook. "You've got to commend our fire department."
Sayegh and other city officials were at the scene devising a plan to demolish the structure.
At the same time, a fire was reported on the roof of a dialysis building at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center. Another fire also broke out on Getty Avenue. Both were doused.
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