Latest Heights fire appears to be an accident

December 6, 2009 5:32:04 AM PST
A new fire broke out in the Heights Saturday night and arson investigators were called out yet again. Tensions have been running high in the Heights for the last several months. More than 20 fires have been set in the Heights area since August, so when 911 was called Saturday, police and firefighters showed up. Saturday's fire broke out at a building on White Oak and Cortlandt. Although it appears now that the fire was nothing but an accident, for Margarete Sanchez-Ripps the fact that it hit so close to her business was scary enough.

"I ran to the back and I just saw sparks everywhere and I was afraid it was going to hit my place," said Sanchez-Ripps.

The fire happened just after 6pm Saturday evening in a ground-level garage apartment that was not occupied at the time. When firefighters arrived, at least two witnesses would report strange men spotted fleeing the blaze.

"We're getting different stories from these individuals, so we have arson investigators looking into it right now," said District Chief Arthur Broussard of the Houston Fire Department.

Arson investigators of course took the fire seriously considering the more than 20 arson fires that have hit the Heights. Although one man is in custody tied to at least one of those blazes, it's still a concern.

"Any time we respond in this area, it's in the back of our minds," said District Chief Broussard.

However, after examining the apartment and speaking to the tenant, investigators would trace the fire back to a candle left unattended.

"I have no indication that this fire was set on purpose. It does not appear to be connected to all the other fires that we've had in this area," said Joe Boening of HFD Arson.

Although it was a false alarm, it reminded these residents that it's better safe than sorry.

"You just have to be careful and just keep an eye out for everything suspicious," Sanchez-Ripps said.

The power to the garage apartments has been turned off. We're told the three tenants who live there were offered assistance from the Red Cross and all three denied it.


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