The fire, which investigators say is suspicious, has displaced at least two dozen people from nine families.
“The memory and the trauma of the fire just coming down, and you’re running, it’s not a good thing,” resident Jeffrey Ordonez said.
Ordonez grabbed his three dogs and ran as the fire broke out around 5 a.m. inside an eight-unit building in Myrtle Place Apartments on the 4000 block of Myrtle Avenue.
“Now there are people on Mother’s Day that don’t have a home and they have to figure out where they’re going to be,” Ordonez said.
Camden Fire Department officials say it took six minutes to respond to the first call and by that time the building was engulfed in flames. As the roof collapsed, crews upgraded the call to three alarms.
“(Once inside, firefighters) were then able to get to the other units, go in other apartments, make sure everybody got out. So that’s a blessing in the course of this tragedy,” said Camden Fire Department Chief Michael Harper.
Bryan Hart lived in the building with his wife and two children.
“Basically out on the streets with no home or nothing and that’s not fair. We didn’t start the fire, we had nothing to do with the fire, but this is the outcome. We’re now out on the streets,” resident Bryan Hart said.
Hart says they now have to start over.
“We try so hard to provide for our family. And in the end, it takes one person to destroy everything you tried to achieve, and that’s not right,” Hart said.
Neighbors say earlier in the night, police had been in the building for a domestic disturbance call; hours later, they woke up to smoke seeping into their apartments.
“I opened the door, I see smoke. I ran inside and got my mom out, my brother, started screaming and trying to get everybody out of the building, you know?” resident Nilsa Santiago said.
Santiago says she feels fortunate all of the residents made it out alive.
“That’s what matters, the lives. Everything else is material. My mom is OK and everyone else. We didn’t lose lives,” Santiago said.
Police have set up fences and tape around the apartment building. As authorities have been able to get inside, investigators with the Arson/K9 Unit have focused on one balcony.
Meanwhile, Santiago says she feels fortunate all of the residents made it out alive.
“We lost everything. My mom lived here for like 20 years at least. What a Mother’s Day. Never going to forget, but my mom’s alive at least and everybody else. Nobody got hurt,” she said.
The Red Cross is providing families with a temporary place to stay as well as food.
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