Fire crews visit same complex twice in a week

October 31, 2008 9:47:22 AM PDT
There have been three fires in just one week at an apartment complex in southwest Houston. Two of them have been called suspicious and residents are afraid to return to their homes.There is still no cause to this morning's fire at the Spring Forest apartment complex on Rampart near Bissonnet, but fire officials are pretty sure that this is work of an arsonist. Six units were completely destroyed. This fire started at about the same time as another suspicious fire last Friday, making residents there worried for their safety.

At daybreak, residents whose apartments did not crumble were able to get inside to see what they had lost. Some of the walls are standing, but the damage is still great.

"A fireman said that it is not livable," said fire victim Karen Evans.

The darkness in the flames had concealed the loss for hours. The fire started around 4:45am. Families grabbed what they could and got out. Evans watched from across the street and huddled with her children and grandchildren next to a barrel of kittens. She had tried to go back for one more.

"I could not even get up the first stairs (because) the black smoke was so thick and I was choking," said Evans.

When fire crews arrived, half of the apartment building was consumed and residents were already thinking the worst.

"It's kind of scary because you don't know who is going to be next," said resident Letty Gomez.

Suspicions spread as fast as the fire. This is the third fire there in just a week, the second big one. Last Friday, 11 units burned. Fire officials called last week's fire suspicious. Today's fire is concerning as well.

"Yes, there is definite cause for concern out here. Arson is going to be looking real hard at it and see what is going on," said HFD District Chief Tommy Dowdy.

After investigators got what they needed, a bulldozer tore down the building. It is no longer safe. Evans salvaged what she could. She and her husband are taking their family and leaving. They don't want to wait for another fire.

"Clearly, there is a problem here and it is very unsafe and my kids are traumatized and since the fire, I haven't been able to sleep from the first one and now there is no way we can stay here," she said.

Evans says her employer, HEB, will help her family find a hotel room for the night. It's unclear whether the Spring Forest apartment complex will do anything for those displaced residents.

Fortunately, no one was injured in this recent fire.

Residents have said there is a lot of gang activity in the area and authorities are looking into that.

Last Friday's fire started around the same time as this morning's fire. Luckily, no one was hurt in that fire, which arson investigators said had three different ignition points, two in a laundry room and one in a vacant apartment.

Eyewitness News has learned there was another suspicious fire at the same complex back in March.

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