Two-dozen families are without a home following a large fire at a local apartment and condominium complex. Residents returned the scene Thursday and scrambled to gather what's left of their belongings.
Large flames lit up the dark sky over the Heathercroft complex in Egg Harbor Township early Thursday morning, as residents could do nothing but wait and watch. "I was in disbelief, cause it's like your worst nightmare." But Tylisha Medley's bad dream really hit home hours later, as she helped clear out what she could from her niece's water-damaged apartment. "To come and see everything now, is, it's just really devastating," she said looking around.
All of those living in the 24-unit building had to gather what they could, not knowing if they'll ever be allowed back in. Viviana Gallager's sister didn't have that opportunity, because her home was destroyed, but thanks to two police officers who were able to dig through the rubble, she at least has some family photos. "This means a lot, it means a lot," said Gallagher, clutching the pictures, "she's ok, she's gonna be alright, she's still alive."
Officials say luckily everyone was evacuated safely from the building. "It's always one of our fears," said William Hancock, Assistant Chief of the Bargaintown Volunteer Fire Company that you get a large building like this, with multiple families in it and they're not sprinklered, and there's no fire escapes, so you do have a lot more to worry about."
Officials say it took nearly 70 firefighters to put out the blaze. At least three units were destroyed, and several more damaged from either water or smoke. While it's nothing short of devastating for those now displaced, many realize just how lucky they are. "Just glad that we all got out," said Medley.
"You can replace everything," said Gallagher, "but not life."
Officials say the cause of the fire remains under investigation, but say it does appear to be accidental in nature - although that has yet to be confirmed. Meanwhile the fate of the building is still to be determined.