Four-alarm fire rips through apartments

October 4, 2008 5:47:16 PM PDT
Homes went up in smoke in a devastating fire in southeast Houston Saturday. Now victims are struggling to figure out what they're going to do next.Several condo units were damaged when flames broke out off the Gulf Freeway and Rowlett. At least six units at the Cedar Wild Town homes are now destroyed.

Firefighters had to pull four alarms to get the flames out, but encountered trouble before they even got to the fire.

The flames started on the north side of this building. Fire crews say they spread so fast because of a common attic. Fire crews tell Eyewitness News they did all they could to save this building.

"The fire truck came late," screamed resident Pao Hancock.

The flames ripped through the building before they could get to it. The complex sits just off the feeder of the Gulf Freeway, which created a big problem for the big trucks and delayed much of the water that could have been used earlier to knock down the flames.

"It was access. There was traffic on the freeway. There was just a lot of traffic and people were just not letting us in," said Chief Christopher Chavez with the Houston Fire Department.

Fire crews are not sure yet what started the fire but all eyewitnesses agree they heard a similar sound just before seeing smoke.

"Pop, pop, pop, pop," said Hancock.

She says she and her husband were upstairs in the unit closest to where the fire stated.

They had to run out the back to get to safety. Though they didn't lose anything in Hurricane Ike, they say this personal tragedy is just as overwhelming.

"If you lost everything you own, what would you think," said Hancock's husband.

Fire investigators tell us city ordinance requires all new construction of apartments and town homes to have fire breaks installed in common attics. Since this building was older, they say it likely was not subject to that requirement.

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