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Surveying the damage after deadly Bronx fire

November 29, 2010 3:45:09 AM PST
One man is dead and dozens were forced to spend the night out of their homes after a deadly and destructive fire in the Bronx.

Those burned-out residents in the Bronx are now reliving the moments of horror that drove them from their homes and killed or injured friends and neighbors.

The flames all but gutted the building at 131 E. 169th Street in the Highbridge section.

"I felt like I was going to break down as soon as I was walking up the stairs," tenant Vanessa Rosario said.

Returning back home was nearly as traumatic as leaving Saturday night, when a raging fire chased dozens from their apartments on E169th street.

Dinorah Gonzales will never forget what she saw, "I saw people falling down, people crying, a guy lying down in the hallway, he was really burned up."

That man was Juan Marte, 46. Crews found him unconscious in a stairwell, he died in the fire.

Friends at High Class Barber Shop, where he worked, say he was probably trying to escape.

He was at work Saturday but left early, around 5 p.m.

His friend, Jose Martinez said, "It's a community thing, everyone around here feels this because he was such a good friend to everyone. Everyday happy, making jokes, dancing around in here."

Officials say the fire started somewhere on an upper floor.

In the rush to escape the heat and smoke, witnesses say one person jumped from a window, another fell from a fire escape.

Vanessa Rosario knew the window was the only way out. She said, "I had a teacher, fire teacher come in and he explained how you never should open the front door, so I actually learned that."

Rita White, 70, lives on the first floor. "I looked out the door and I saw a wall of fire," White said.

At first she refused to leave her apartment, her son tried to convince her to get out. She finally did when the lights went out. No one can stay here now. The Red Cross has set up a temporary shelter around the corner.

Fire officials say the fire is potentially suspicious.

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