However, Sacco was very impressed with the way that the North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue conducted themselves in the face of tragedy at the 308-unit, 15-story facility located at 64th and Grand streets.
"I saw the monumental job that the Regional had in fighting that fire," Sacco said. "There was horrendous heat and thick smoke. There were firefighters on top of the building, hanging down on ropes and trying to lower themselves in through windows, all some 15 stories above the ground. These were very dangerous conditions."
While the life of 71-year-old resident Mary Cosentino was lost that evening, the conditions were so severe that it was fortunate that there weren't more casualties.
Last Wednesday, Sacco and the North Bergen Board of Commissioners showed their appreciation for a job well done by presenting representatives of the NHRFR with an official proclamation honoring the Regional's efforts in fighting the multi-alarm fire.
It marked the first time in Sacco's 16-year tenure as mayor that he issued such a proclamation.
"They did an outstanding job," Sacco said. "This was our way to honor them properly. It was worthy of receiving the first proclamation."
NHRFR Co-Director Michael DeOrio, who accepted the proclamation on behalf of the entire Regional, was impressed that Sacco and the commissioners took the time to honor the firefighters.
"Mayor Sacco saw it firsthand and realized that the fire could have escalated into something more serious," DeOrio said. "I think he wanted to honor all of those who fought the fire, and this was a special way to do it."
DeOrio, who was a member of the North Bergen Fire Department before it became part of the five-municipality Regional four years ago, firmly believes that there would have been more casualties if the old system of only one fire department fighting the fire was still in place.
"If it was still just our fire department, we wouldn't have been able to handle it," DeOrio said. "No one town, with 25 men, could have handled this fire. But with the Regional, with at least 60 men responding to the fire, it kept the casualties to a minimum."
The fire was located on the 14th floor of the facility and began in Cosentino's apartment.
"When our men got to the 14th floor, they encountered heavy smoke," DeOrio said. "When they opened the door of the apartment, they found heavy flames. It immediately went to the fourth alarm."
Residents were instructed to remain inside their apartments while the firefighters fought the blaze.
According to DeOrio, most residents followed the instructions, putting wet towels under the door frames to keep the smoke out as much as possible. That also helped to keep casualties and injuries to a minimum.
The 14th floor received some smoke and water damage, so residents of the 13th, 14th and 15th floors were evacuated and placed either with family members or in other temporary housing. With the exception of the 14th floor residents, most have returned to their homes.
Ten residents were treated for smoke inhalation and anxiety, but all have recovered.
Eighteen members of the NHRFR were treated for a variety of injuries, ranging from facial burns to a broken nose.
Although DeOrio accepted the proclamation, along with NHRFR Co-Director Jeff Welz, NHRFR Chief Edward Flood and Deputy Chief Brian McEldowney, the proclamation was essentially given to all of those who fought the blaze.
"It's for the men who battled the fire, who took the risks and sustained the injuries," DeOrio said. "They really risked their lives. The recognition is truly deserved and we're happy that the mayor and the commissioners took the time to present this honor. Usually, we're criticized for what we do. It was nice to see a mayor give such a presentation of appreciation."