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Tenants escape a fire inside an East Moline apartment building

These people were inside the building when it went up in flames on Thursday. They say they are happy to be alive.

EAST MOLINE, Illinois - Sitting on the side of the street, Michael Unzel described the moments flames fully engulfed the apartment building in the 1100 block of 15th Avenue on Thursday, August 1st.

Unzel lives there and said he was sitting on the couch with his wife and their two dogs when he heard fire alarms blaring in the hallway.

"The hallways is full of black smoke and our landlord ran through," said Unzel. "Get out, now! Get out!"

Without a shirt on his back, Unzel said he grabbed his two dogs and he and his wife escaped using stairs on the backside of the building.

Both Unzel and his wife, Cari, are military veterans.

"So, I sit here right now trying to think about scrapbooks, our kids pictures, our military pictures. They're all gone."

Escaping without a scratch, Unzel said his service dog, Bella, and his greyhound, Zakara are okay. But, three cats were left behind. Their condition is unknown.

"When I met her we didn't have nothing," said Michael Unzel. "We are just getting ahead in life."

Michael's wife, Cari, was still shaking as firefighters knocked down the blaze.

"You see it on T.V. all the time. You never think it is going to happen to you," she told News 8. "It's like living in a nightmare right now."

Their neighbor Jeramie Hoyt was at work when he learned about the fire.

"I was on my lunch break and all I hear is people screaming and yelling and my wife yelling at the kids, trying to get them out of there," he said.

He was describing the moments his wife called him, telling him that she and their 5-year-old and 16-year-old kids were escaping the burning building.

One of the children didn't even have shoes on their feet as they rushed to safety.

"Everything I work for and everything that I have tried to build and get for us here, in a matter of minutes, is gone," said Hoyt.

Still, Hoyt says he is thankful. His wife and kids survived the flames and he says "other stuff can be replaced."

To learn more about the fire, click here.