The fire broke out around 12:30pm at the building on West Dallas at Marconi in the Montrose area. Huge portions of the unoccupied luxury apartment complex were completely engulfed in flames before collapsing, and thick black smoke filled the air. By 1:30pm, firefighters had called a fifth alarm on the blaze.
Houston Fire Department spokesperson Ruy Lozano says one construction worker was rescued from the third floor. The man was reportedly about to jump to safety, but a ladder truck reached him just in time. The man was not injured.
Lozano says all firefighters and construction workers have been accounted for. Juan and Raul Hernandez were among the construction workers who ran for their lives as the flames spread fast.
"Real quick, because it was windy," Juan said. "But it seems everybody is OK. I don't know."
Raul recalled, "When everybody started screaming, I just climbed down the scaffold and walked away."
Eyewitness Larry Reader reported seeing a construction worker using a fire extinguisher trying to put out the flames at the beginning of the fire, and said that man then needed to be rescued from a balcony.
"It was frightening," Reader said. "In an hour and a half, it was unbelievable how fast it spread."
Political consultant Adam Harris was among those stuck in traffic. He shot video of the fire as the lone trapped worker was rescued.
"How amazing it is that nobody was hurt," Harris said. "Blows my mind. I actually talked to some of the workers and said, 'What happened?' And they said, 'We don't know. Everyone yelled fire, fire, fire and we got out.'"
Lozano adds that the fire started at one end of the construction site and quickly spread to the other side, with winds speeding the fast-moving flames along. The exact orgin location and cause haven't been determined yet.
More than 80 units were dispatched to the scene with more than 200 firefighters. This includes at least 14 ladder companies, 26 engine companies and five EMS transport units.
Firefighters sprayed nearby homes and buildings with water. The fire did not spread to any adjacent structures, but the blaze burned hot enough to melt plastic on cars parked nearby.
Motorists have been asked to avoid the area. Residents who live in the area are asked to reroute their way around this incident. Houston police say streets are closed in the Montrose fire area within a perimeter from Allen Pkwy (north), W Clay (south), Waugh (west) and Columbus (east).
The building is owned by JLB Apartments based in Dallas. Company officials say they are aware of the fire. It's unknown what may have caused the blaze. Investigators are on the scene.
In order to thank Houston's firefighters, Goode Company BBQ on Kirby Drive says it will be giving away free barbecue sandwiches to members of Houston's Fire Department between 11 am and 10pm Wednesday.
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