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Firefighters Still Investigating the Cause of the East Village Fire

By Patrick Hedlund | July 8, 2010 7:46pm | Updated on July 9, 2010 6:47pm

Editors Note:  The FDNY originally said that Victor Hidalgo had been arrested over the East Village fire. Hidalgo, was in fact, arrested in connection to another fire in Queens.

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

EAST VILLAGE — Firefighters were still investigating what may have caused the fire that turned into a raging inferno in the East Village on Thursday.

Eight firefighters sustained minor injuries in the blaze, including smoke inhalation and exhaustion, fire officials said. No residents were harmed.

On Friday, East Village residents and business owners affected by the four-alarm fire began trying to piece their lives back together.

Tenants of the condo building were allowed to return to their apartments temporarily on Friday to retrieve clothes, valuables and even pets from their homes following the blaze.

A tenant on the fifth floor whose apartment connects to the roof said his place suffered the worst damage of any on the top floor. He carried out a bag of clothes and a collection of century-old Tibetan antiques Friday after being allowed inside to gather belongings.

“Our lives are upside-down right now, but everyone’s healthy,” said Trigger, who owns Continental, a bar on Third Avenue in the East Village.

“It sounds like I won’t be back here for months.”

The resident said he was looking out his window on Thursday when he saw people he didn’t know “waving frantically” at him from the street.

Seeing smoke and realizing there was a fire, he went to the door leading to the roof with a fire extinguisher in hand — but stopped short of opening it when he saw flames.

“Within seconds, the entire door was engulfed in flames,” said a resident who goes by the name Trigger. “Thank God, because I think I would have been toast if I opened the door.”

He stayed at a hotel in Midtown Thursday provided by the Red Cross, adding that he hadn’t yet figured out accommodations for Friday night.

Husband and wife Michael Kudler, 42, and Kathi Castro, 40, found their two cats waiting safely inside their second-floor apartment on Friday when they returned to the building. Kudler had been inside when the fire started but had to evacuate before he could grab the pets.

“They’re scared,” said Castro. “They’re street cats anyways, so maybe they’re used to this.”

But many of the couple’s belongings didn’t fare so well — their furniture and electronics sustained water damage, they said.

The two planned to stay with Kudler’s mother, who is visiting from California, for the time being.

Several storefronts on the building’s ground floor also experienced heavy water damage, including the Top Style Nail Salon on Houston Street, whose ceiling partially caved in, said owner Bruce Lee, 49.

He explained that his wife and many employees and customers were inside the 14-year-old salon at the time of the fire but managed to get out unscathed.

“We’re fine,” Lee said, but added that many manicure tables and chairs were damaged.

Water also poured through the ceiling of Discovery Wines on Avenue A, where employees were still mopping upFriday afternoon.

Assistant manager Mark Du Mez, 36, said he and other workers had to remove about 120 gallons of water from the store that morning with large plastic bins.

“Hopefully [we’ll] be up and running by today,” he said. “We got to get open — drinking’s important to a lot of people in this neighborhood.”