AUSTIN – Crews from Travis and Williamson Counties responded to a fire at a northwest Austin apartment complex on Christmas Day.
Austin Fire Department said crews were initially called to Building 9 of the International Residence apartments – currently called The Hendrix – around 9:30 a.m. Dec. 25, and that it was upgraded to a two-alarm fire around 10 a.m.
"Once it started what we called vented through the roof and the attic was involved, you know, and it vents through the roof, then we have to get water up high to spray down on there," said Jollyville Fire Dept. Chief John Kiracofe.
The fire was brought under control around 10:45 a.m., AFD said.
"It was a crazy call. It was the worst awakening you can have," said Wani Dogale, who lives on the second-floor of Building 9.
He was staying with family when his roommate called to tell him the news.
"I was almost in a race with the firefighters because they were coming off of MoPac. I could see the smoke," Dogale said.
Dogale and his roommate moved into the apartment less than three months ago.
"I felt good for having my own place at this time. You know, I worked hard to get this place. And all of a sudden, everything goes down and I have to start from scratch," said Dogale.
While he still planned to spend the holiday with his family, he recounted some of what the fire had taken.
"Right now just everything is coming in my mind. My tools for work, I need that. I need to work tomorrow. So there's a lot of things that are just coming in my head right now. Like, 'I need this. This is important. Oh, I forgot about this.' Like, everything is making me more depressed at this moment," said Dogale.
Tenants whose apartments only suffered smoke damage were allowed back inside to retrieve belongings.
"(They grabbed) clothing, Christmas presents. One gentleman came out with armfuls of still-wrapped Christmas presents," said Missy Pratt, who lives in a different building at the apartment complex.
Her family prepared to evacuate in case the fire spread to her building.
"This devastated so many people that it's just heartbreaking," Pratt said.
The Red Cross of Central Texas worked with apartment staff to help provide temporary housing to those affected.
"There's people hurting on Christmas Day. If there's ever a Santa Claus out there, I want to see Santa Claus come up," said Rick Perkins, the public information officers for the Red Cross of Central Texas.
Perkins battled tears as he recalled showing up to the scene.
"Those kids this morning were kids walking through the water with no shoes on. They're walking around looking for (their cat)," said Perkins. The cat was found soon after.
Besides working to find temporary housing, the Red Cross is also working to provide food, clothing and counseling.
"We need people's help, right now. Today. Your neighbors are in need," said Perkins.
To learn how to donate to the Red Cross, click here.
Jollyville Fire Department said 12 of the 24 units in Building 9 were damaged. Every person and animal have been accounted for and no injuries were reported. On Tuesday, the department said they ruled out electrical or mechanical issues as the cause of the fire.
AFD added this complex had a major fire in December 2012.