Click to use the Talking Dictionary 36. Tenants Watch Building Burn

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A 20-unit apartment building burned for about an hour before firemen were able to extinguish it. The fire started in the attic at about 10:30 p.m. yesterday evening. The damage was estimated at $1.5 million. A fire department spokesman said the fire might have been set deliberately.

The tenant who first saw the blaze banged loudly on the door of every unit in the building. Occupants of 15 units were already in bed or preparing for bed. No one responded in the other five units because the tenants were not home. Those tenants who were home escaped with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, their pets, their cell phones, and their laptops.

Many tenants went across the street to watch the fire from a safe distance. They were all hoping that their units would be spared. Some of the pets were so disturbed by the noise, crowds, flames, and smoke that their owners could not hold on to them. They clawed their way out of their owners' arms and dashed away. The younger children were similarly frightened. They cried in their parents' arms.

Two fire engines arrived at 10:45 p.m., but the entire roof was ablaze by then. Smoke and flames were visible in most of the units on the top floor.

At about 11:35 p.m. the flames were extinguished. Most of the roof had disappeared. The top floor of the two-story building was about 80 percent gone. Water was seeping into the ground-floor units, ruining most of them. The tenants were crying or speechless. They were happy to be alive, but now they had no home. Where were they going to live?

Firemen discovered a charred gasoline can in the attic. This was the second suspicious apartment fire in a month.


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