Families lose nearly everything in fire

HOUSTON Flames broke out Saturday morning off Cypress Station and Hallow Tree in north Harris County. Now fire victims are coming to grips with what happened.

Ten families in all lost their homes early Saturday morning. Many of them were asleep when the fire started and hours later, one man told me he was still convinced he was dreaming.

As flames raged over the Palms Apartments in north Harris County, the roof gave way, windows melted and shattered, and residents couldn't help but watch in horror.

"Horrible. Horrible. Horrible. That was the worst feeling I ever had in my life. You know, to watch your whole life go up in flames, and you can't do anything about it," said Kevin Palmer.

Several people told us they woke Saturday morning to the sound of a neighbor franticly knocking on their doors, after he spotted the smoke coming out of one apartment.

"He was walking his dog, and started banging on doors," said Nicole Alvarez.

"Everybody out. Everybody out. Fire and it's spreading fast," said Dwight Murphy.

Within 10 minutes, witnesses say the fire erupted, spreading through a shared roof.

"It was just a little smoke. Next thing you know, the whole roof goes up," said Palmer.

All the while, frustrated residents say the fire department was slow to respond.

"I was like, 'Y'all can't get no water?' Come on. But no, no nothing," said Palmer.

Ponderosa Fire Chief Fred Windisch admits crews were hindered, first because the complex's entry gate wouldn't open. And then because the old water mains here couldn't provide water fast enough.

"We used everything that was available -and it wasn't enough," said Chief Windisch.

Now twelve townhomes are gone.

"Without a doubt, the entire building will have to be knocked down," said Chief Windisch.

And families are beginning to grasp just how much they've lost.

Everyone affected has been assigned a new unit to live in and the Red Cross has been out here helping as well. The state fire marshal's office is investigating the cause of the fire. Management did admit it has had some problems keeping vagrants out of two vacant homes, and some residents say the fire got started in one of those two units.

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