Nonprofits scramble after Moorestown Community House fire

MOORSFIRE18
Firemen inspect roof damage from a blaze at the Moorestown Community House on Tuesday. No one was hurt. The fire lasted about an hour.

On the first floor of the Moorestown Community House, where the organization the Tender Inc. has cared for dementia patients for nearly 40 years, Barbara Fetty could only stand for a few minutes Wednesday without coughing.

The acrid smell of smoke from a fire Tuesday evening had settled over the room. Fetty, the nonprofit's CEO, doubted whether her patients could ever return. They range in age from 55 to 93, and are dropped off each day by family members before work.

"This is a pretty fragile population," Fetty said.

Dozens of organizations like Fetty's were rushing to relocate or reschedule their operations on the day after a two-alarm blaze sent flames through the roof of the 90-year-old building on East Main Street. A wedding scheduled for Saturday also had to switch venues.

Brad Kenney, executive director of the Community House, said an electrical issue in the attic caused the fire. The most severe damage occurred in a second-floor room below the attic. Smoke caused damage elsewhere as well, though the ballroom and garden room were mostly unscathed, Kenney said.

On Wednesday morning, the power was cut to the building as crews cleaned up debris. Kenney said he hoped to re-open the rooms where nonprofits operate in the near future.

"It is going to be a little bit of the process," he said. "We're not sure of the timeline yet."

Township Manager Scott Carew, who visited the site, credited a resident with calling 911 after seeing smoke spewing from the roof. Not everyone inside the building knew about the blaze, he said.

"The fire could have been a lot worse," Carew said.

Fire crews brought the blaze under control by 6 p.m. Tuesday, about an hour after it began. No one was injured.

Carew said the township was offering its library and recreation center to organizations such as the Moorestown Jewish Association, which needed to move its meetings elsewhere. More than 70 organizations and clubs use the Community House, according to its website.

The township council said in a statement that it was "deeply saddened" by the fire.

"The Moorestown Community House has been a special place for generations of Moorestownians since 1926, and we know they will rebuild stronger than ever," the council said.

Donations may be made at www.thecommunityhouse.com. People with questions on events may email info@thecommunityhouse.com.

mboren@phillynews.com

856-779-3829 @borenmc