Two-alarm fire destroys SW Houston apartment building

November 10, 2011 4:27:39 PM PST
We now know the cause of a fire that ripped through a southwest Houston apartment complex, turning lives upside down. Firefighters say it's something everyone should keep in mind before firing up your heater.

A mother of seven was reduced to tears Thursday morning after learning her family's apartment building collapsed after a two-alarm fire. The fire department says the source of the fire was from a short in the heater of her apartment.

As intense flames ripped through the Sterling Crossings apartment complex on Kirkwood at Moonmist, Elizabeth Rodriguez was only minutes into her morning commute.

She said, "This must have happened -- I had just left to work, not even 15 minutes."

Right before she walked out the door she had flipped on her heater for the first time this season.

"This morning as I was leaving, there was a smell," Rodriguez recalled. "I checked it and there was nothing, so we left."

Before Rodriguez arrived at work, heavy smoke was already showing with flames emerging.

Eyewitness Michael Lee said, "One minute they weren't there, the next minute the whole roof is on fire."

"I saw a flame, very dark thick coming out from that building and I was like oh my God," said witness Evelyn Taylor.

Rodriguez never made to work. The mother of seven kids, with her makeup smeared, worried about telling her children that they lost everything when she picks them up from school.

"Just the clothes on their back, thank God they took their sweaters this morning, you know," Rodriguez said. "But that's it. That's all we have, everything was left."

After an investigation, the Houston Fire Department confirms that faulty wiring in her apartment's central heater sparked the two alarm blaze.

HFD Assistant Fire Chief Lisa Campbell cautioned, "If you turn a heater on and you smell something funny, turn it off immediately and call a service person or your apartment maintenance."

Rodriguez is just grateful no one in the entire complex was injured.

She said, "Just thank God nobody was in the house. Thank God that we were all gone."

Rodriguez is a single mom and didn't have renter's insurance. The Red Cross is trying to help her with necessities.

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