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Residents Begin Picking Up Pieces After Devastating Amsterdam Avenue Fire

By Nigel Chiwaya | January 24, 2013 6:50pm

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The day after a massive fire roared through a Washington Heights apartment building, residents sifted through their ravaged apartments looking for any remnants they could salvage.

Tenants allowed back into their homes at 2440 Amsterdam Ave. near 181st Street Thursday afternoon said they were shocked by the damage they found.

"This is a disaster — it's devoured," said resident Miguelina Jaquz, who has lived in the building for 33 years. "I don't know where I'm going to sleep tonight."

The four-alarm fire scorched 10 apartments in the building and took two hours to extinguish.

FDNY officials said the cause of the blaze is still under investigation.

Jaquz said she was asleep in the second-floor apartment she shares with her daughter and 4-month-old grandson when the fire started.

"I was sleeping [and] my daughter told me, 'Ma, the alarm's going off,'" she said. "When I closed the door the smoke started coming in from the walls."

The family escaped, and Jaquz said they spent the night with a friend.

When she returned in the morning, she found the apartment in ruins, with sections of the walls and floor missing and her furniture burned and soaking wet. Her television and computer were covered in rubble. Debris even filled her grandson's crib.

Jaquz salvaged two large bags of personal belongings and then returned to the charred apartment to look for more, but she couldn't find anything else worth saving.

"There's nothing to take," Jaquz said.

City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez pledged support for the residents Thursday.

"This fire was a tragedy for numerous families whose lives have been unexpectedly shaken," Rodriguez said.

"My office will be working diligently with the respective city agencies to see that all residents can get back on their feet as soon as possible. The brave work of the FDNY last night is highly valued and I am glad they were able to prevent any loss of life in the fire."

Officials urged residents to contact the Red Cross at 1-877-733-2767 for further assistance.