New Year’s Eve nightmare
Several Roc Harbour residents left without their homes
by Vanessa Cruz
Reporter Staff Writer
Jan 13, 2013 | 4870 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHAT’S LEFT – Four apartments were destroyed and eight were affected by smoke and water damage on New Year’s Eve. 
(Photo courtesy of Mary Cranwell)
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New Year’s Eve turned into a nightmare for several residents of the Roc Harbour condos on the North Bergen waterfront.

A fire that morning destroyed one building and damaged others. The cause of the fire is still undetermined. Fire officials said last week that a special crane will move debris so they can determine the cause of the blaze.

No residents or firefighters were injured.

“Hopefully they locate the point of origin and come up with some determination,” said Co-Director of North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue Mike DeOrio.

New Years Eve fire

The fire began around 5:25 a.m. when Roc Harbour resident Robert Merlo’s son awoke to the smell of smoke. He woke up his parents and called the Fire Department.

The family helped the elderly tenant that lived above them, since she recently broke her leg and was unable to get out on her own.

“Priority was the two little dogs, that we had get them out safe and get our neighbors out safe,” said Merlo.

Roc Harbour tenants were displaced by the fire for nearly 10 to 12 hours.

“On a cold wintery New Year’s, it was chaotic,” said Merlo.
“That’s the people of North Bergen, helping each other in times of need.” – Robert Merlo
Once the fire was extinguished, Merlo’s apartment was gone, along with his prized possessions, after having lived there for nine years.

“Everything we had [is gone] like pictures of my grandchildren, my children when they were babies, everything was completely lost,” he said. “[But] we got out with our lives no one was injured.”

He is currently staying in an Edgewater hotel. He wants to remain a North Bergen resident.

“We are definitely going to move back in,” said Merlo. “That’s the people of North Bergen, helping each other in times of need. It’s been an overwhelming outpouring of support.”

Roc Harbour was also hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.

“This is an absolute tragedy and my heart goes out to the residents of Roc Harbour, some of whom were still struggling to clean up from flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy and now have to deal with this,” said Mayor Nicholas Sacco. “However, we can all be thankful that it was not worse and that the quick response time by North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue and the North Bergen Police Department helped prevent any fatalities or major injuries. My administration will be working with the Red Cross and other local and regional authorities to help the families displaced by this devastating fire put their lives back together over the coming weeks and months.”

Half Moon Harbour and Palisades Medical Center lent a helping hand, accommodating residents displaced by the fire.

Vanessa Cruz can be reached at

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