Families devastated after 3-alarm fire destroys homes

April 9, 2011 4:21:07 PM PDT
A three-alarm fire in northwest Houston left several families homeless and sifting through their belongings Saturday to see what they could salvage.

The fire damaged at least one building at the Spring Branch Estates complex on Amelia and Wirt early Saturday morning.

Maria Ciarra and her three children lived at the complex for seven years. Everything they own is now worthless -- charred by fire and soaked by water.

More than 70 Houston firefighters fought the blaze. Their biggest challenge was the structure itself.

"Our units were having a hard time accessingwhere the fire was because of two roofs on the building," said Deputy Chief Terry Stone with the Houston Fire Department.

Linda Killam first spotted the fire and called 9-1-1 while her son rushed to alert neighbors. "The fire was enormous. It was really scary," Killam said. In all, at least eight units were destroyed, including Ciarra's. By chance, she had to work overnight and her children were staying with their grandmother at the time of the fire. She is still paralyzed by the thought of what could have happened had they been home.

"I don't know what [would have] happened if my kids was here." Ciarra said.

Guadalupe Martinez and her six children were home when the blaze started. She awoke to a stranger pounding at their door, yelling for them to save themselves. Martinez grabbed her sleeping children, dragging them out of the apartment.

"[My son] was asleep on the sofa so I pulled him up and he wasn't waking, so I [was] just holding their hands and dragging them on the floor," Martinez said.

No one was injured in the fire. Arson is investigating. Apartment management tells us they've put all the displaced residents in different units within the complex.

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