Massive fire breaks out at apartment complex

November 3, 2011 10:00:00 PM PDT
Authorities are investigating a big fire at a west Harris county apartment complex.

It was just before 5am when residents at the Green Trails apartments off Houghton Road near Kingsland reported hearing small explosions coming from one unit and then seeing massive flamess.

A Harris County fire marshal said the fire started somehow while an elderly resident on oxygen was smoking. That resident was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

For residents Alan and Beth Hays, who've lived in the same apartment for the last two decades, it was the kind of thing they hoped to never see. The flames, so shocking one of their neighbors captured it on cellphone video.

"It was burning ferociously. I've never seen fire burn that hot and that hard," said Beth Hays.

The Hays say just before 5am, they heard frantic knocking at their front door, someone in the distance yell "fire" then an even more scary sound. The other neighbors heard it, too.

"We heard a boom," said one resident.

"There was a lot of explosions, a lot of glass blowing out," said Beth Hays.

Fire officials say the explosions, likely caused by oxygen tanks in a downstairs apartment, were forceful enough to push firefighters heading inside back. Fire officials say the resident inside was critically injured, but was able to get out.

"I was told she had sustained some burns and smoke inhalation," said James Dillon with the West I-10 Volunteer Fire Department.

Firefighters say the entire apartment building has been damaged, 12 units destroyed. The Hays' apartment was one of them. But the couple was left with only the clothes on their backs. They realize it could have been worse, so they are now trying to find the courage to move forward.

"It's like flipping the pages through your life and remembering well it was that, that's probably gone, and our wedding pictures, that's gone," said Hays. "We've got each other and that's the only thing that is really important."

The Red Cross is now working with an estimated 45 people who are now displaced. Some of them have since been moved to other units.

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