NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The hits just keep coming for dozens of Brooklyn residents. First, lightning sparked a fire, driving them out of their homes.

But on Tuesday, they were out for good.

The new heartbreak came with a twist: families were given just hours to move everything out or they’d lose it forever, CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported.

The aftermath of the fire left smoke and hundreds of gallons of water. More than 100 apartments were destroyed by mold and mildew in the wake of the blaze, which was sparked by a lightning strike on the roof.

The flames tore through the Cornell Apartments on New York Avenue two weeks ago.

“It’s a mess. It is a total mess,” John West said.

West’s 88-year-old sister lived in one of the apartments for 40 years. But following the blaze, her home was covered in mold and she’s being forced out.

“She’s got 40 years worth of mementos she’s loading on this truck,” West said.

The city has issued a vacate order for the entire building. Residents have a scheduled four-hour window to go back inside, pack up, and get out, but most complained that wasn’t close to enough time.

New York Avenue fire

The Brooklyn building burned by a fire as a result of a lightning strike two weeks has been condemned and residents from more than 100 apartments were forced to move out for good. (Photo: CBS 2)

“How do I pack up 37 years in four hours?” resident Mary K. Williams said.

But James Eisenberg of Urban American, the building’s management company, said the tight schedule is the only way to get everyone in and out in the limited time allowed by the Department of Buildings.

“Obviously, it’s very tough to bring things out in a four-hour period, but there are 116 units and we do have to give everyone an opportunity to go in and get their stuff,” Eisenberg said.

Management stepped in to help everyone with housing. It said it will pay brokers’ fees, and offer up apartments in their other buildings.

But for people whose furniture was destroyed — and memories lost – it was not an easy transition.

“It hurts, but we have to do what we have to do,” Williams said.

Management said it will decide the future of the building once everyone is out. If it decides to rebuild, construction could take more than a year.

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