Last updated: February 19. 2013 8:25PM - 535 Views

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HAZLETON – Residents of an apartment building that was ravaged by fire Sunday morning were salvaging what they could of their belongings on Monday, sullen at the prospect of homelessness but thankful to be alive.

You have to feel good. Five more minutes and everything would be gone, said 32-year-old Ezequiel Astacio, a resident at the three-story structure on the corner of Cedar and Green streets for the past year and a half.

Astacio and 10 other residents of the apartment building either escaped safely or weren't at home when the fire broke out.

Pedro DeJesus, 60, said he was sleeping when the fire broke out just before 11 a.m., having arrived home at 8 a.m. after working a 12-hour overnight shift.

I'm OK, but I still have smoke in my nose, he said while taking a break from helping his friend, Nelson Lopez, 64, load some belongings into a van.

Tomorrow, I'll look for a new place. I'm not sleeping tonight, Lopez said. He'll be at work.

Lopez, who has lived in the apartment building two years, said he was at work when the fire started and is grateful that the fire didn't destroy all of his belongings. He'll stay with a cousin until he finds a new apartment.

As he finished packing some odds and ends that weren't destroyed by fire or smoke, Astacio said he's grateful firefighters from the Hazleton Fire Department responded so quickly and were able to prevent the fire from destroying everything he owns.

He's even more grateful that he and his 5-year-old daughter made it out safely.

Astacio and his daughter were asleep when the fire broke out. He was awoken by the smell of smoke and someone smacked my door.

The American Red Cross is putting up Astacio and his daughter at a local hotel until they can find a permanent apartment. Family in the area also will help, he said.

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