JCC in Woodbridge moves quickly to recover from fire

Fire personnel on the scene at the JCC of Greater New Haven.

Fire personnel on the scene at the JCC of Greater New Haven.

WOODBRIDGE >> It will be “months” before the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven reopens, but officials there are moving quickly to relocate key components of the center, including pre-kindergarten classes, swimming, basketball and the fitness area.

JCC Executive Director Scott Cohen said they already made an “amazing accomplishment” by securing a license for the pre-K and after-school program Thursday, within 72 hours of the Dec. 5 four-alarm fire that closed the building.

Even state officials were amazed that was accomplished so quickly, he said.

Cohen said some 77 pre-kindergarten students and 40 in an after-school program will temporarily use space at Congregation B’nai Jacob.

He said they are close to settling on a location in town for the fitness center, have moved the basketball program to Hopkins and Beecher Road schools, swim lessons to the Orange Community Center pool and racquetball to Quinnipiac University. The staff also is working on moving offices temporarily.

“We’re definitely taking the ‘it takes a village’ approach,” Cohen said.

People are “coming out of the woodwork” to help in any way they can, he said.

The JCC had for the past several weeks been running drills in case of fire and then the practice was put into action.

The blaze at the Amity Road center started around 3:30 p.m. in the area of the locker rooms and men’s sauna, JCC Chief Executive Officer Judy Diamondstein has said.

Fire Department officials have not returned telephone calls regarding the cause of the blaze.

The staff was able to immediately evacuate about 300 people from the building, she said, which included about 15 in the pool.

Many were taken out wearing only their bathing suits, Diamondstein said, and brought next door to the Brookdale Woodbridge senior living facility.

Firefighters from Woodbridge, Bethany and Orange responded to the fire, while Seymour firefighters covered for those departments.