Fire at Winter Street Studios in Houston's Sawyer Heights under investigation

ByDerrick Lewis KTRK logo
Wednesday, December 21, 2022
Houston warehouse filled with years' worth of art burns in fire
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The Houston Fire Department is investigating a fire that torched multiple art pieces inside the Winter Street Studios in Sawyer Heights.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Years and years' worth of artwork went up in flames in a matter of minutes before sunrise in Houston's Sawyer Heights area on Tuesday.

Eyewitness News was told that the Winter Street Studios in the Sawyer Yards creative campus at the center of the Arts District caught fire, which caused significant damage.

Everything Jack Potts has worked for for the past seven years was destroyed.

"This is gone," Potts, who owns the studio where the fire started, said. "There is no lifeboat. There is no 'I'll get a check to recover.' I have to figure out how to recover."

This fire couldn't have come at a worse time. Potts was switching insurance carriers while changing the direction of his business, Bohemian Photography. Staying strong right now makes him emotional.

"You've been beat down enough that this is just one more go... You don't have a choice," he said.

The Houston Fire Department's incident report states that firefighters first arrived at the scene at 2101 Winter St. at 6:17 a.m. The original call came in as a location on Edwards Street, HFD said.

Smoke marks were left at the entrance of the Winter Street Studios after a fire early on Dec. 20, 2022.
Soot, ash, and debris cover the entranceway of the Winter Street Studios. A fire ripped through the art warehouse on Dec. 20, 2022.

The fire also spread to Holly Nowak's studio.

"They have affected hundreds of people's careers," Nowak said. "Every piece of art I've ever done is in that building. I have nothing. I have no art left."

While they are looking into the cause of the fire, police have surveillance video that they could release later in the investigation.

"The video shows someone going into this studio, stealing all of his equipment, and then there was a big explosion," Nowak said. "Whoever lit the fire, or bomb, or whatever it was, ran out really quickly.

"Whatever they were going through that made them feel that would be important, I'm sorry for them," Potts said.

The fire department said crews, which included firefighters from six different stations, controlled the fire and ventilated the building.

A wider photo shows the location of the fire in relation to everything else at the Sawyer Yards. A fire ripped through Winter Street Studios on Dec. 20, 2022.

As of Tuesday evening, HFD could not officially give details on the extent of damage, whether any property was saved, and what caused the fire. The department said no injuries were reported.

Arson investigators were called to the scene, which is standard for HFD investigations, but multiple artists whose works were stored in the warehouse tell ABC13 that they believe this was an intentional act.

With a forgiving heart, Potts does not want the person responsible to feel any more guilt or shame for what they did. Friends have started a GoFundMe to help Potts start over.

Potts never thought this would be a reality.

"Just appreciate what you have now because this happened in an instant," he said. "You just don't know."