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Teen charged with setting blaze that injured firefighters, displaced families

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NEW YORK -- A teenage girl has been accused of starting the three-alarm fire that ripped through a Bronx apartment building Saturday, affecting more than a dozen families and injuring several firefighters, authorities said.

Police said the 19-year-old allegedly lit a mattress on fire inside the six-story apartment complex in University Heights where she lives with her family, igniting the fast-moving blaze.

She was charged Sunday with second-degree arson. Information on an attorney wasn't immediately available.

About 150 firefighters responded to the fire on Cedar Avenue at about 10 a.m. Saturday; the flames spread quickly through the top floor.

"I looked out the window and saw smoke and then me and my mom we just ran down the stairs," said Edward Tavarez, a resident in the building.

Officials said it took firefighters an hour and a half to control the blaze. Six firefighters were treated for minor injuries, including burns.

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All of the building's residents escaped the blaze unharmed.

Three apartments were completely destroyed by flames while several other units were severely damaged by water, authorities said.

The Red Cross said 17 families registered for recovery assistance; eight of those families were housed in temporary emergency housing and the rest either declined housing help or were able to return to their apartments after firefighters doused the flames.

Despite any lost or damaged property, residents said they were grateful to be alive.

"I don't care about what I lost in there but everything is all right. Everyone is all right," said Luby Cheoc.