ROTTERDAM — Lou Perry and his wife, Jill, went to bed early Tuesday night, but Jill had trouble sleeping soundly.
"When she woke up, she heard snapping and crackling, like wood burning," Lou Perry recalled outside the burned-out 3271 Guilderland Ave. structure they used to call home. "She went to the living room because she'd thought I left the TV on."
What she saw, Perry said, was a glow coming from the apartment's back porch area.
"She ran in and woke me up. I chased her out" of the apartment, Perry said, adding he grabbed pants, keys and his wallet before leaving. "By the time I got back to the door, the door was engulfed in flames."
Both escaped without injury, though their cat, a calico named Kitty Mom, was missing as of late Wednesday morning.
No other injuries were reported in the overnight fire.
Firefighters arrived about midnight at the two-story building near Interstate 90. The fire, which began at the back of the building on the second floor, charred most of that floor. The town building department was working later Wednesday to determine if the building could be saved.
Firefighters doused the blaze but returned later in the morning when smoke was again rising from the structure.
Pine Grove Fire Chief Wes Blessing said the building's construction proved difficult for firefighters.
"We didn't have any problems other than the layout," Blessing said. "It's been built on so many times, there were so many voids that the fire was in. That's what we're having trouble with right now. There's about 8 inches of space between one section and another section."
The building housed a total of five apartments, four on the second floor and one on the first. Four of the units were occupied. The Red Cross was assisting residents.
The first floor also included what appeared to be a garage/work space, but Blessing said it did not house a storefront business.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation as of mid-morning, Blessing said.
Perry said his first reaction when his wife woke him up was to ensure she got out safe. Property, he said, can be replaced. The couple has renters' insurance.
The Red Cross and friends have also helped the couple.
"You never know," Perry said, "but thank God we're all still alive."