Billy Graham Chaplains Deployed to Deadly Bronx Blaze

By   •   January 10, 2022

A man wearing a blanket leaves the scene of a fatal fire at an apartment building in the Bronx borough of New York City on Sunday. (AP Photo/Jeenah Moon)

After New York City faced its worst fire in over 30 years on Sunday, killing 17 people—including eight children—chaplains from the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (BG-RRT) deployed to offer emotional and spiritual care.

“Our hearts go out to all those who lost loved ones, all those impacted by this devastating fire, and the first responders,” said Josh Holland, assistant director of the BG-RRT. “We want to show our support as we send crisis-trained chaplains to provide emotional and spiritual support for all of those who are hurting.”

The blaze was started Sunday morning, January 9, by a faulty space heater in a 19-story Bronx apartment complex and smoke quickly spread throughout the building.

At first, some residents thought the fire alarms were simply a “false alarm” from someone smoking or cooking, before being in a desperate dash for their lives. With nearly 200 firefighters battling the inferno, many occupants ended up being rescued through their windows.

While the fire itself was contained to the second and third levels of the duplex and connecting hallway, firefighters found victims on every floor due to smoke inhalation.

Chaplain coordinator and retired former police officer Jason Scalzi led a small team of chaplains who offered prayer and a listening ear to community members in the Bronx.

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More than 60 people were injured, many being trampled on the stairwell while trying to escape the heavy smoke and leaping flames. Over a dozen residents remain in local hospitals fighting for their lives.

“This here is another opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ, love the brokenhearted, and allow the Lord to bind up the wounded,” said Scalzi.

For him, the deployment was about offering a “ministry of presence of just being there for them to grieve. I know the firemen and fire responders are grieving, as well,” Scalzi said.

“Sometimes just a hug or shoulder to cry on is better than any words could ever be,” Scalzi said. “[We were] there to serve in any way that’s needed.”

This marked the first BG-RRT response of 2022. More chaplains are still ministering in Boulder, Colorado, due to recent wildfires and several regions of Kentucky following tornadoes.

Please keep all those involved in the fire in your prayers.

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