Posted on October 10, 2012 at 6:00 AM
Wednesday, Oct 10 at 10:11 AM
AUSTIN -- Eighteen people are out of their apartments after a fire tears through their Southeast Austin apartment complex.
The fire started shortly before 6 a.m. Wednesday in a first floor unit at the Park Lane Villas complex on Parker Lane near Woodward Street.
The flames spread to a second story unit where a mom and her teenage son live. The mother woke up when she felt heat from the flames. Her son called 911.
When firefighters arrived, they knocked the flames down quickly and managed to keep it from spreading to other apartments. They had to climb on top of ladders and cut through walls to knock out hot spots and flare ups.
The families who evacuated watched from the sidewalk.
“That was my mom's bedroom right there. I looked at it. It was all fire. I was scared because I thought my mom was in there still,” said resident Alfredo Velasco.
Velasco and his mother made it out of the burning apartment safely and helped wake up their neighbors. Firefighters evacuated the rest of the units in the building, about 20 in all.
Eight units remain evacuated. AFD Battalion Chief Palmer Buck says two units suffered fire damage. Another two have smoke and water damage. The other four units were cleared because crews had to shut off power. Officials say residents in those four units can go back home once it's safe to restore power later Wednesday.
The American Red Cross and management at Park Lane Villas are working with the displaced residents to find them another place to stay.
Arson investigators are ruling the cause of the fire as 'undetermined.' Investigators say they can't pinpoint the exact cause, but they did trace it back to the first floor unit.
The couple who lives in the unit says they never heard a smoke alarm go off. Firefighters didn't find any inside the apartment, but all of the other units have alarms.
The fire caused about $100,000 in structural damage and another $50,000 in property damage.