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FIRE IN APARTMENT BUILDING LEAVES THREE FAMILIES HOMELESS

Three families with a total of seven children age 10 or younger are scrambling to pick up the pieces of their lives in the wake of a fire that destroyed virtually everything they own.

Fire investigators Monday afternoon were still sorting through the rubble of the apartment building at 530 Fourth St., which was consumed by a fast-moving blaze discovered shortly after midnight Saturday.

Fed by gusty winds that pushed the flames toward two adjacent homes, the fire caused an estimated $70,000 damage to the building, which fire officials said is owned by Mike Burgee of Lewiston.

Niagara Falls Fire Chief Paul Shanks said Monday afternoon that the cause of the fire had not yet been determined.

The names of the victims are being protected by the Niagara Falls Chapter of the American Red Cross, which is providing emergency shelter, food and clothing.

"They lost everything, said Nancy Smegelsky, Red Cross director of emergency services, who came in during her vacation to assist. Four other Red Cross volunteers also helped at the scene as firefighters struggled against driving winds and bitter temperatures, and family members scrambled to make sure everyone was safe.

Firefighter Gerald Aderhold was credited with rescuing one of the children from a third-floor apartment.

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