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9 Displaced by Arson in Scranton

SCRANTON — A fire that damaged an apartment building Monday morning in Scranton is arson, according to city fire inspectors. The fire broke out at the pla...

SCRANTON -- A fire that damaged an apartment building Monday morning in Scranton is arson, according to city fire inspectors.

The fire broke out at the place on Willow Street just before 3 a.m. on Monday.

Octavio Collado doesn't live there, but he's owned the building for the past five years.

"One of my tenants, they called me up. It was about three o'clock in the morning and I heard the screaming in the background and the yelling," Collado recalled.

Collado says his first concern was his tenants and their safety. The three-story home is broken up into five apartment units. Nine people lived in the place. Eight were inside and one had to be treated for breathing in too much smoke.

"What we needed to do was knock down the large volume of fire in the rear and very quickly and aggressively get inside and do a search to make sure everyone was out," explained Assistant Fire Chief Jim Floryshak.

There's a fire station in south Scranton on Gibbons Street. The firefighters on that truck reported they could see flames from several blocks away as soon as they rolled out of the building.

That meant a second alarm. Every on-duty firefighter in the city was called in. Off-duty firefighters were called in to man the stations around the city.

Assistant Chief Floryshak credits those firefighters for making sure everyone was out and keeping those flames from taking down the entire building.

"Outstanding work by the Scranton Fire Department to do what they needed to do to ensure everyone was out of the building and keep the fire contained to the building of origin," Floryshak said.

Now that they know the fire was arson, those tenants and the building's owner want answers.

Flames started in the back of the building just before 3 a.m. Eight of the nine tenants were inside sleeping at the time. One woman was taken to the hospital and later transferred to the Lehigh Valley burn center.

"It saddens me to think that somebody has that type of malicious intent in their heart to physically go in and want to either destroy other people's property or worse, take someone's life," said Collado.

The injured woman, who lived on the second floor of the apartment building, is in critical but stable condition.

One firefighter was also injured, and two cats did not make it out.

Collado had told Newswatch 16 earlier on Monday he was hoping to rebuild.

"It's a whole different ball of wax when you're looking at something like that. If you say to yourself, 'It was a faulty wire, something mechanical, something that could be changed, something that could be fixed,' you want to rebuild."

After finding out the fire was arson, though, Collado isn't so sure he wants to anymore.

"All of the families that have been disrupted start to put their lives back together, who knows that this same person doesn't come back and try it all over again."

Collado owns three properties in the city and was hoping to expand his business as a property owner because of the relationships he has built with his tenants.

"I like this neighborhood. I know that there are a lot of beautiful homes over here. I did have it in my heart to continue to look, to continue to build, to continue to provide," he said. "Now, I'm not 100 percent sure I want to do that."

One firefighter had a minor injury and was treated at the scene.

The Red Cross is helping the nine people who lost their homes.

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