Tragedy struck twice on Bergenline Avenue in Union City two weeks ago, as North Hudson firefighters battled two blazes eight days apart, both of which occurred between 20th and 21st Streets. The blazes displaced nearly 20 families in the neighborhood, families who were still picking up the pieces last week after being left homeless. One blaze occurred Friday, Jan. 28 at 2000-2004 Bergenline Ave. Seven families ran out during rush hour after a fire spread from the bakery below the three-story buildings. The second blaze took place on Saturday, Feb. 5 around 5 p.m. at 2109/2111, 2113 and 2115 Bergenline Ave., where apparently an electrical fire because of faulty wiring left 10 families homeless. It was a difficult week for the fire department, said Robert Jones, chief of operations for North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue. "It was distressing to see these families go through what they did within a week of each other," Jones said. "A lot of the damage was caused by heavy smoke and fire which spread quickly through the cocklofts [a common divider between the roof and the ceiling]. Because the buildings are old, the fire rapidly went through the walls in both cases and caused serious damage. Even though we didn't experience anyone getting hurt because they did have smoke detectors in the buildings, you can't help but feel for these families who have lost everything and are now left with just the clothes on their backs." Fire officials said both fires took about two hours to get under control, and families were evacuated safely and placed at nearby motels by the Red Cross until shelter could be provided for them. The extent of the damage, they said, was on the second and third floors. In Saturday's blaze, four businesses were damaged, including a medical supply store and a meat market. At press time, the building's owners could not be reached for comment. The North Hudson Community Action Corporation has since reached out to families and has assisted the Red Cross in trying to provide clothing, food and shelter for the fire victims. At press time, few of the families were able to be located because they were said to be staying with relatives or in shelters. Emergency Housing Coordinator Jane Martinez-Casares of the NHCAC said that they were working diligently to help as many of the families as possible, but that not being able to locate them has been difficult. "What we're finding is that many of the fire victims are low-income families and do not have any other resources to fall back on," Martinez-Casares said. "We've been working many long hours trying to reach out to them, and it hasn't been easy. We don't know at this point where some of them are unless they come in. After they leave the Red Cross, some have come here and we've provided emergency food certificates, rent assistance and clothing. We have limited resources, but we haven't turned anyone away. Our main concern is to be able to let them know we are here to help them, but if we can't find them, then all we can do is wait." She also stressed that it is important that families who have witnessed what has happened to the victims get fire insurance. On Wednesday morning, one of the fire victims who did find her way to the offices of NHCAC spoke tearfully of her loss. "I can't believe what has happened," said Rosa Hernandez, who has been a resident of Union City since she moved from El Salvador five years ago. "My family has lost everything and I don't know what we are going to do. My husband still went to work today and we're staying with a friend of my sister. I know people are trying to help, but they don't understand the hurt we feel about this." Her 12-year-old son Miguel, who just came to live with her in December, stood next to her with a melancholy face and expressed his sadness in Spanish. "My mama tried [to help] and it was scary for us," he said in a crackled voice. "I lost some of my toys, but we are getting by. I don't know what will happen to us." With concern over the conditions that most of these families have gone through, the city has pulled together to help them. In an effort to help residents who lost their belongings in recent fires, Union City officials, the local Latin American Kiwanis Club and radio stations have collected donations from the city and held a coat drive on Wednesday, Feb. 9 at Crown Properties in Union City and Twin City Supermarkets in Elizabeth to provide some winter warmth to the victims. Mayor Rudy Garcia, who was present on Wednesday to meet with some of the families, spoke of the city's concern over the recent tragedies. "We've been working with the families as much as possible to try to accommodate their needs," the mayor said. "It is an unfortunate situation that such a tragedy has occurred. Though we are aware of the cause of the first fire, the fire department is still investigating the cause of the second one. It's a sad loss and we are here today to try to meet their immediate needs and provide the moral support for them to get through this." Though the effort is being made, some of the fire victims still feel left out in the cold. "I understand that they are trying to help, but from what I have seen, there is very little they have been able to do for some of us," said Julio Quebedo of 2109 Bergenline Ave. "I have no place to live and I'm going from place to place. For others, there is only so much a shelter can do. Every bit the city and the agency offer counts, but we are still people with pride. No one wants to accept handouts, but if we do, I just don't want to feel like they're treating me like [a charity case], because I've contributed to this community, too."