Chinese lantern sparks apartment complex fire in Montrose

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A symbolic moment to honor a loved one ignited a fire that ruined at least one family's possessions.

Around 9 p.m. Sunday, Houston firefighters surrounded the Susanne apartment complex in Montrose.

Moments before, Franceska Mccauthan and her husband smelled something burning.

"There was no alarm, so we ran down the hall banging on everyone's door yelling fire," McCauthan said. "We went to the 8th floor parking deck just to see the roof of our apartment engulfed in flames."

When she returned, she saw just how much damage had been done.

McCauthan lost all of her possessions, including wedding photos, baby pictures and furniture.

"I'm very shaken up," McCauthan said. "It's a lot to process. It's extremely overwhelming to one moment be having a glass of wine at your dinner table and the next moment realizing you're never going to sit at that table again. It's really scary."

Mccauthan is a florist and said Sunday's incident is easier to process thanks to those in the creative community.

"There's a local fashion designer who dropped off clothes for me to wear," McCauthan said. "It's just been incredible, the outreach."

The Houston Fire Department ruled the fire accidental. They say a Chinese fire lantern is to blame.

The apartment complex said one of its residents lit a lantern on the garage to honor a fallen loved one, and the wind blew the lantern toward the building, causing it to land on the roof.

Although lanterns are not illegal, the state fire marshal is warning community members about the dangers that may come from them.

Mccauthan says she's not upset about the unusual circumstances, but rather, glad that everyone is okay.

"It could've been an electrical fire," McCauthan said. "It could've been a candle. It could've been anything. The bottom line is that we lost everything, but the things we cannot replace we still have."
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