Tenants Rescued From Fire, Cause Uncertain

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SCRANTON -- Fire forced six people from their apartments in south Scranton and a business is now condemned.

How the fire started is still somewhat of a mystery. Fire inspectors believe someone set it, but they don't know if it was an accident or a crime.

It started around 8:15 p.m. Wednesday at the place in the 300 block of Cedar Avenue.

There isn't much left of the back deck of the apartment building but Scranton fire inspectors know the fire was set. They just don't know how, or why, or who.

A photo sent to Newswatch 16 by a viewer shows the intensity of the fire.  The flames created a nightmarish situation for the six people who lived there on Cedar Avenue. Most of them had to be rescued from their apartments.

Matt Rusen, who made it out on his own, came back to pack up the few things that could be salvaged.

"Going through this is like going through a death in the family. It's not something you want to do but something you have to do," Rusen said.

Rusen watched as his neighbors were rescued from the burning building.

"I heard the alarm going off and I thought someone over-cooked something, it was just kind of smoky. Then I came out and I had to crawl and my second grade fire safety just kicked in. Stay low, and that was kind of it, I just crawled to the door."

Firefighters say the building was full of flames when they arrived. Two tenants were on the roof.

Louis Ramirez and two of his friends were pulling a woman and her baby out of a first floor window.

"It was pretty shocking to go up there, and people were still in bed. They were just completely unaware of what was going on. When we were screaming 'get out, your building is on fire!' they were looking at us like we were crazy."

Fire inspectors could tell the flames spread quickly, and that someone on or near the deck set the fire.  It's up to investigators to figure out whether or not it's a crime. The apartment building and a business attached to it are now condemned.

Everyone inside got out safely.

"Everything happened so fast. If it would have been another minute, 30 seconds to a minute, then somebody might have gotten hurt," said Ramirez.

The six people who lived there are being helped by the Red Cross.

A Scranton Police fire investigator will try to determine if the fire was set accidentally or on purpose.