Posted on December 19, 2012 at 9:03 AM
Wednesday, Dec 19 at 5:21 PM
AUSTIN -- An Austin police officer helped rescue families from a burning apartment building in East Austin Wednesday morning.
Senior APD Officer Gary Griffin was driving down Manor Road around 8 a.m. when he smelled smoke. He looked up and noticed smoke coming from the roof of an apartment complex on the corner of Manor Road and Sweeney Lane. Griffin called for firefighters and then went door to door, knocking to get residents out.
“I worked my way outward,” said Griffin. “I started with the door closest to them; got those people up; worked my way around the back.”
Griffin says the residents answered the door startled and not realizing what was going on. He says he never heard smoke detectors going off in the apartments.
“A lot of people were still sleeping,” explained Officer Griffin. “They were very scared, very nervous. More shocked than anything. They couldn't believe what was going on.”
The Austin Fire Department says the apartment did have working smoke detectors, which played a role in saving lives.
Within minutes Griffin had all of the residents out and across the street. They watched as firefighters pulled up and started putting out flames. By then the smoke was thick and fire was shooting up through the roof some six to eight feet in the air.
“We all [saw] the fire. It was blazing through the roof. First it made a spark through the window. You could see the spark through the window, that's when the back of the roof started catching on fire and it went up,” said Waymon Kirby who lives nearby.
Firefighters got the flames out quickly, but it destroyed several units. Investigators say it started in the kitchen of one unit then went up the wall and into the attic. The fire has been ruled accidental. Investigators say the resident didn't realize they hit the button on the stove, turning it on. They left and weren't home when the fire sparked.
Ten families are now displaced -- 16 people in all. The manager at the apartment complex told AFD he had no other units to move the families into. The American Red Cross is helping them.
If you need a smoke detector in your home, the Austin Fire Department will come out and install one for free. You can contact them at 512-974-0299.