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Hundreds Of NJ Residents Forced To Rebuild Lives After Devastating Apartment Fire

FORT LEE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Firefighters are still dousing hot spots at a New Jersey co-op building that was completely gutted Thursday.

Although they've been left without a home, many residents are just thankful that everyone made it out alive.

The fire began in the basement of the Fort Lee building around 4 p.m. on Valentine's Day. It wasn't long before the building was completely consumed.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Official Fort Lee GoFundMe Page

"Everybody is crying and it's really horrible to watch… saying goodbye to friends you're not going to see anymore because everybody has to move," Cindy Zweibel said.

WEB EXTRA - Mayor Mark Sokolich Provides The Latest Information On The Fort Lee Fire: 

Zweibel made it out only with the clothes on her back. Now she wears garments that were donated to the residents as she figures out what to do next.

She's among a dozen residents who spent the night at a Red Cross shelter at Fort Lee High School.

"Never saw anything like this. You just don't think it's real. You're just in a state of shock, you don't think it's real," Zweibel added.

In all, 45 units have been completely gutted. Mayor Mark Sokolich said Friday that as many as 250 people have been displaced by the blaze.

WEB EXTRA - Devastating Fire Guts Fort Lee Apartment Complex On Valentine's Day:

"I hope they get to the bottom of what happened. It really is devastating," Marisa Pellegrini said.

Firefighters remained on the scene Friday morning, putting water on what's left of the blaze - to prevent it from rekindling.

MORE: Residents Rescued After Fast-Moving Fire Rips Through Apartment Building In Fort Lee

Resident Christos Tororis returned Friday to look at the ravaged building to understand what happened and let the devastation sink in.

"I feel my heart broke because all my dreams in the 35 years that I lived here is gone," Tororis told CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas.

Many of the affected residents had lived in the complex for decades. They bought the apartments and made it a home. Now, they have to find a way to start over.

The Red Cross is providing case workers to help the affected residents. Fire officials are still trying to determine the cause.

The borough of Fort Lee has set up an official GoFundMe page to raise money for the families which were displaced.

Donations will also be accepted at the Fort Lee Recreation Center located at 1500 8th Street, bottom of Stillwell Avenue. Donations will only be accepted Friday between 12pm-9pm and Saturday/Sunday between 9am-5pm. Officials have requested the following items:

Toiletries, including but not limited to:



Soap/Body wash

Q-tips/Cotton swabs


Tissue packs

Baby powder

Adult Disposable Briefs

Dental floss

Body Lotion


Feminine products

Disposable razors

As well as:

New clothing with tags... no used clothing and no food will be accepted, according to officials.

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