Man mad at family sparked NW Houston fire that tore through 16 apartments, document states

Jessica Willey Image
Thursday, March 9, 2023
18-year-old's tantrum led to fire that damaged 16 apartments, docs say
Records say a fire that destroyed 16 apartment units in northwest Houston started when a man lit clothes in a closet because he was mad at his family.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- An 18-year-old, charged with arson, sparked the immense fire that destroyed 16 apartment units in northwest Houston because he was upset with his family, according to charging documents.

Tuesday's two-alarm fire began at about 1 p.m. at the Flint at 290 apartments at 5915 Flintlock near Highway 290 in northwest Houston.

SkyEye was over the scene when the complex's roof was engulfed, and crews made efforts to put it out.

Records state the fire began when Jose Espinoza-Villanueva used a cigarette lighter to set clothes on fire in his mother's closet because he was upset with his family. As a result, the flames ripped through multiple units, displacing 16 families.

"There are 16 units. Sixteen other families who have been affected," Richard Smith, whose sister lives at the complex, said. "People lost everything, not just a night of not being at home, but they lost their whole life."

The flames came dangerously close to reaching Smith's sister's apartment on Tuesday. He said someone could have died.

"Yeah, and if you look at that, thank God no one did die. No one did," Smith said.

Houston Fire Department officials said no civilians were injured, but according to charging documents, two firefighters needed medical attention. One was dehydrated and needed oxygen. The other also needed oxygen and was dizzy after being hit on the head when a ceiling collapsed on him.

Espinoza-Villanueva is currently in the Harris County jail. Records show that he is due in court Wednesday night, at which time a hearing officer is expected to set the bond.

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