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Community steps in to help families displaced by apartment building fire

19-year-old tenant accused of arson

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The Miami Gardens Police Department and other community organizations dished out hot meals Saturday for the nearly 40 people who were displaced by an arson fire.

"We're assisting the people who suffered a huge loss. They lost everything," officer Carlos Austin said, adding the relief effort is ongoing. 

"We need people to come out tomorrow, Monday, Tuesday. Bring some clothes, food, waters. We need help," Austin said Saturday.

The groups will be collecting donations from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday outside the Crystal Lake Apartments in the 2600 block of Northwest 207th Street. Police 

Nathaniel Greene, an elder at Mount Pisgah Seventh-Day Adventist Church, said the Pisgah Pantry was also providing boxes of non-perishable food items like pasta and crackers.

The fire broke out around 3 p.m. Wednesday at the apartment complex. The blaze gutted at least six units and many others were damaged by smoke. Police said Malachi Wilder, a tenant in the building, intentionally set the fire.

Wilder, 19, faces charges of attempted murder and arson.

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan and other tenants described Wilder as being emotionally disturbed.

"What I understand is that someone was very upset and set his own apartment on fire with the intent of trying to destroy the entire building," Jordan said.