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Nearly 30 apartments uninhabitable after high-rise fire at Roosevelt Building

PITTSBURGH — Dozens of residents inside the Roosevelt Building were told they could return to their homes today, according to neighbors. However, nearly 30 apartments are uninhabitable, and those residents are staying at the convention center for the time being.

Wallace Spence and his cat, Silly, were able to escape the fire at the Roosevelt Building late Sunday night, but they’re now without a home. He says his apartment is flooded with water and destroyed by smoke.

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“For a split second, I wasn’t in life. I was in a movie — a bad movie,” Spence tells Channel 11. “I saw the burning embers coming down with the glass — 100,000 pieces of glass.”

One of his neighbors a few floors up died trying to escape. Her family tells Channel 11 she made it from the 14th floor down to the fifth floor, but she collapsed in the stairwell.

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“It was like watching the Titanic — water running down the walls. When I got to my apartment and was almost inside, the ceiling collapsed,” Spence added.

Spence and Silly will now stay with another 36 people and a dog at the convention center, where the Red Cross has set up an emergency shelter and provided warm meals. While dozens of residents are able to return to their units today, Spence isn’t so lucky and doesn’t know what comes next. He’s taking it day by day.

“I have an animal, and my health is very bad,” he adds. “My mental health is bad, and my anxiety is through the roof right now.”

Restoration trucks line Penn Avenue as crews work to get people back in their units. Most apartments on the side of the building from the 14th floor all the way down are destroyed because of smoke and water, according to neighbors.

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