Flames rip through N. Houston apartments

July 18, 2009 4:50:33 PM PDT
More than 30 families were burned out of their homes in a three-alarm apartment fire Saturday, and now investigators say it looks like it was set on purpose. The fire started Saturday afternoon on Blue Ash near Richey Road in north Houston. Smoke there was still rising and the victims still in shock when fire marshals put cuffs on a man standing among families evacuated from their homes. Investigators say he's being questioned in connection with their arson investigation and that he lived in the apartment where the fire started.

The apartment management company also told us he's in the process of being evicted.

Single mother Patty Garcia says she couldln't hold back her anger at the thought that a fellow renter could have started the fire that destroyed her home and nearly a dozen others.

"What do you do?" she asked. "I just moved in yesterday."

She says she and her 13-year-old son were just getting back on their feet after losing nearly everything in Hurricane Ike.

"This morning as we left, he said, 'Mom, this is our home' and now we come back to it and there's nothing to come back to," she said.

Two firefighters working to stop the flames had to be rushed to the hospital after heat exhaustion set in, but eventually crews were able to bring the flames under control.

"I thought it only happened in the movies," said 15-year-old Reggie Penney, who was home alone. "It was right there in front of you."

Penney is just glad everyone got out safely.

"When I got outside, people were knocking on people's doors, breaking in people's houses to get people out," he said.

For some, it means one more struggle to start over.

"They say, 'You got out'," said Garcia. "But got out with what?"

Firefighters say eight to ten apartments were destroyed. Because of smoke and water damage, 32 families in all have been displaced. We've learned none of them have renter's insurance.

Those families are now being moved to other units in the building. Donations for them are being take at the management office.

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