Fire at retirement community ruled accidental

March 22, 2011 8:48:23 AM PDT
A three-alarm fire erupted in a southwest Houston retirement apartment complex Monday, forcing residents to scramble out with their wheelchairs and walkers and watch their belongings go up in flames. We first brought you the fire as breaking news on Eyewitness News at 4pm. It started just before 4pm at the Treemont retirement community on Westerland near Westheimer in the Galleria area. Arson investigators say the cause of the fire was accidental. They believe it was an electrical fire that started on the third floor.

All of the residents were accounted for. Two-hundred-and-forty-nine people were evacuated from the six-building complex and moved to a nearby facility.

We're told the smoke alarms and sprinklers at the complex worked properly, and everyone was evacuated. We're also told fire crews didn't put water on the flames right away because there were still firefighters inside looking for residents.

Meantime, plans were made for the residents who had to get out quickly.

"We've already talked to the management about moving forward with a secondary plan of possibly relocating them to another complex, making sure they're putting together an assessment team so they can go inside and see the extent of the fire or impacted the units, where the people cannot go back inside," said Houston Fire Department Assistant Chief Rick Flanagan.

"I walked out to the side and saw smoke billowing and Flames shooting," said one witness. "It was pretty scary."

One firefighter was transported to Memorial Hermann from the scene by ambulance after complaining of chest pains. At this point, we don't have word of that firefighter's condition. We're told three residents were mildly hurt. One fell on the sidewalk during the evacuation, one complained of dizziness and one had mild smoke inhalation. They were all treated and released.