Condo fire caused by construction welding

June 3, 2009 9:52:02 PM PDT
Firefighters extinguished a major fire that burned at a condominium complex in Galveston.[PHOTOS: See images from the condo fire]

Eyewitness News learned from the city of Galveston that a welding torch at the back of the complex was to blame for the blaze in which 60 units have been damaged.

The fire, which went to five alarms, burned at the Maravilla Condos at 9520 Seawall Boulevard. That complex was still being rebuilt after taking a devastating blow from Hurricane Ike back in September.

"The fire team got the first call at 2:19pm. They quickly arrived on scene and evacuated any of the residents that were here at the condo unit," said Galveston City Director Alicia Cahill. "The structure was damaged during Hurricane Ike, but the repairs were nearing completion for most of the units and people were definitely using this building and living here."

Cahill went on to say that "we haven't had any reports of any of the evacuees being injured, however, one firefighter was sent to the hospital by EMS suffering from symptoms of heat exhaustion."

The fire started in the back of the building and most of the top floor was damaged. Many of the units in the back were rented out.

"We got here and it was engulfed. It was an inferno. We're really lucky, our unit is actually not burned ," said renter Brad Pike.

By Wednesday evening, the fire had been contained and firefighters were just putting out hot spots. Firefighters said the damage would have been worse had there not been a concrete firewall in the middle of the complex.

"We had probably 100 to 125 firefighters here today," said Galveston Fire Chief Michael Varela, Sr. "The fire got a good headstart on us. The fire, as far as we know, was in between the floors and the walls."

The homeowner's association treasurer told us that the complex was built in the 1980s and there was no sprinkler system inside.

The HOA treasurer also told us that the repairs from Hurricane Ike damaged was almost finished and many residents had begun to move back in.

According to the condominium website, the main building reopened in May and the next opening was scheduled for August.

It's unknown how many residents were living in the condos, but everyone was evacuated.

Off-duty personnel were called in and firefighters from surrounding communities were activated in case they were needed elsewhere on the island.

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