Residents of 3 apartment buildings left homeless after accidental cigarette fire

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WATERVLIET, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A fire in Watervliet has left the residents of three apartment buildings without a place to live and without most of their possessions. The fire chief tells NEWS10’s Anya Tucker that the fire was preventable and was the result of a lit cigarette.

More than 24 hours after the June 28 blaze began, firefighters in Watervliet continued to knock down hot spots at the 3 apartment buildings on the corner of 24th Street and Broadway.

And all that former residents like Pedro Valentine could do was look on from the street.

“We lost everything,” said Valentine.

He says he was alerted to the fire by a police offier who banged on his apartment door. He says he grabbed a few items and ran out with Jarely Gonzalez and her two young sons.

“I just grabbed my two kids and that was it,” she added.

They are among about 20 residents now without a home.

Many are receiving help with temporary housing from the Red Cross or staying with family members.

“A lot of us are without anything right now,” said Frank Kasper.

He owns and lived in one of the impacted buildings and says he, like the dozens of other residents, scrambled to escape the flames Monday afternoon as the fire spread.

“I can’t walk well. Two Watervliet policemen helped me get out. Because it was before the fire department came,” said Kasper.

Watervliet Fire Chief Tom Garrett says the fire had a head start because the resident who accidentally set the fire failed to call for help.

“The individual was smoking. He discarded a cigarette. It went on to a pet couch and that caught on fire. They didn’t notice for a while and they attempted to put it out by themselves.”

Pedro Valentine reacted to the news that the fire had been accidentally sparked by a neighbor saying, “Our home. Things that we worked so hard to get, for somebody who is being irresponsible, it’s a little bit frustrating. But you know, life goes on and we thank God because we are alive.”

Chief Garrett says the buildings are unsafe and are expected to be torn down as soon as the fire is completely out.

As for the resident who inadvertently started the fire, Watervliet Police said the fire is considered accidental and not reckless, so he will not face any charges.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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