EDGEWATER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Hundreds of people were wondering what to do next Thursday, after their homes were destroyed by a devastating fire that ripped through a huge Edgewater, New Jersey apartment complex.

As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, the fire raged for hours Wednesday afternoon and evening at the Avalon at Edgewater complex.

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In all, 240 units were destroyed, permanently displacing about 500 residents, Edgewater Mayor Michael McPartland said. An additional 520 residents from other Avalon buildings damaged by smoke and water have also been displaced, McPartland said.

The residents were forced from their homes with little other than the clothes on their backs.

“Our whole building is gone, and you just don’t think that stuff can happen to you,” said resident Aaron Nelson.

The Nelsons – Aaron, Ashley, and their young son Aiden, were home when the flames broke out. Their belongings were destroyed.

“He had his favorite toy puppy that was in the building that he loved, but I guess we’re replacing him with this temporary cat,” Aaron Nelson said.

Aiden Nelson lost his favorite stuffed animal in the Edgewater fire. Luckily, it was replaced with a stuffed cat. (Credit: Meg Baker/CBS2)

Aiden Nelson lost his favorite stuffed animal in the Edgewater fire. Luckily, it was replaced with a stuffed cat. (Credit: Meg Baker/CBS2)

“Kitty make me happy,” Aiden said as he held the plush toy that replaced the one he lost.

The North Bergen emergency manager said her team was in place to guide the devastated families toward resources and a new start.

“Emotions are very high,” said emergency manager Aimee Focaraccio. “This is a very tough loss, especially when you have something as horrific as this.”

Zane, 10, lived with his parents, brother, and grandparents. He said at first, they thought they were hearing someone else’s smoke alarm going off. But they quickly realized they had to get out fast.

Zane, 10, can't say which favorite thing he lost, and said he loved his whole home that burned in Edgewater. (Credit: Meg Baker/CBS2)

Zane, 10, can’t say which favorite thing he lost, and said he loved his whole home that burned in Edgewater. (Credit: Meg Baker/CBS2)

Zane could not say which item he lost was his favorite.

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“I loved that whole house, actually,” Zane said. “I didn’t have any favorite things. Everything was my favorite.”

And as far as having his family safe and sound, Zane said, “That’s the most important thing.”

Sarah Kafuman, her two sons, and her dog stood outside all night as the fire roared, waiting to see if their unit would burn.

Sarah Kaufman, her two sons, and her dog escaped the Edgewater fire, and watched outside all night as blaze increased. (Credit: Meg Baker/CBS2)

Sarah Kaufman, her two sons, and her dog escaped the Edgewater fire, and watched outside all night as blaze increased. (Credit: Meg Baker/CBS2)

“This is Buckley,” Kaumfan said as she held her dog. “He’s a little shaken up, and shaking right now, but he made it OK.”

Another dog owner was not so lucky. She was on her way home from work when she arrived to find the fire raging.

This Edgewater fire victim lost her two dogs, Hailey and Griffin. The ASPCA was unable to get into building to rescue them. (Credit: Meg Baker/CBS2)

This Edgewater fire victim lost her two dogs, Hailey and Griffin. The ASPCA was unable to get into building to rescue them. (Credit: Meg Baker/CBS2)

“I saw gulfing flames coming out of the building, and unfortunately, I have two dogs that perished in the fire – Hailey and Griffin,” the woman said.

A woman named Kelly and her daughter were given the news on Thursday afternoon that their apartment across from the Avalon at Edgewater complex had been destroyed.

Kelly and her daughter lived across from the Avalon Complex and are now homeless. Their apartment sustained smoke and water damage. (Credit: Meg Baker/CBS2)

Kelly and her daughter lived across from the Avalon Complex and are now homeless. Their apartment sustained smoke and water damage. (Credit: Meg Baker/CBS2)

“Our apartment was drowned in black smoke and embers,” Kelly said.

On Oakdene Terrace, the road above the Avalon Complex, smoke continued to billow nearly 24 hours after the fire first broke out.

Residents on Oakdene Terrace were evacuated, and one woman told CBS2’s Baker she had not been allowed to return. She called the situation too close for comfort.

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Donations for those affected by the fire can be brought to City Place, at 225 River Rd. in Edgewater, at the vacant storefront next to Fleming’s Restaurant.