Dozens of families lose homes to massive fire

January 26, 2010 10:00:17 AM PST
Residents had to take shelter at a nearby gas station after their homes were damaged by a huge apartment fire early Tuesday morning in southwest Houston. The fire at the Royale Masters apartments on Stella Link at Link Valley broke out around 3am. It was so intense that firefighters had to pull three alarms. And now, the entire building may have be torn down.

"The flames were coming out the window and they was just popping," said resident Gerald Thomas.

In the middle of the night, residents of the apartments woke up to a nightmare.

"Came outside and all you could see is a bunch of smoke and got on this side of the apartments and the whole front of the office is up in flames," said a fire victim.

One of their neighbors may have saved dozens of lives.

"This chick runs through hollering all the time, but she finally woke me up and saved my butt this morning," said Thomas.

That woman is Brenda Moody. She lives next door to the leasing office and first noticed the smell of smoke.

"Smoke, fire was just pouring out of the office. Windows were breaking so I just ran and knocked on everybody's door and got them in our little area and got them out," she said.

Residents lined the streets, watching the roof collapse into their homes. With nowhere to go, they were forced to endure this morning's biting cold.

"Put us in a hotel, put us somewhere. I can't be out in this weather," said Moody.

By daybreak, METRO sent a bus as temporary shelter. Firefighters passed out blankets and apartment managers bought donuts and coffee to hold everyone over. One woman saw the fire on TV and rushed there to give away blankets.

"I live down the street," she said.

Neighboring Shearn Elementary wheeled out breakfast from the cafeteria.

"I can't imagine waking up in the middle of the night to a fire and then not knowing what's gonna happen," said Shearn Principal Bill Buck. "So we're trying to get the children in school, at least so they're safe. Then we'll be doing a clothing drive later today to support them."

While arson investigators assess what started this blaze, many homeless residents wonder where they'll go from here.

"We didn't have vacancies over here, so we may have to relocate them to a different place," said the apartment manager.

Fortunately, there were no injuries. The Red Cross was on the scene to help those displaced residents.

Firefighters were still working the scene so the section of Stella Link and Link Valley will remain closed.