Posted on January 28, 2013 at 8:24 AM
Monday, Jan 28 at 10:44 AM
AUSTIN -- Firefighters are investigating what caused a duplex fire in Northwest Austin.
It happened on Sawtooth Lane near Anderson Mill early Monday morning.
Firefighters say three roommates lived on one side of the duplex and a family of five, including three children, lived on the other side. Two of the children weren’t home at the time; everyone else made it out safely.
The father of the family, William Shields, says he woke up coughing and smelling smoke, then realized something was on fire. He grabbed his family and took them out then rushed next door.
“I yelled and beat on the neighbors' walls. I beat on their doors. I rang their doorbells repeatedly. I said 'get out, get out, it's on fire!' I did everyone all the way around,” said Shields.
Once everyone was out they all stood together, watching as the flames spread. Firefighters rushed to knock it out, but there were problems establishing the water line. Once they had a steady flow the fire got knocked out fast. By then one of the units had already burned and the flames had torched the roof of the other unit.
“Work a full day’s work, come home to nothing. I don't know. I don't know what to think,” said Shields.
Firefighters are looking into what sparked the fire. AFD Battalion Chief David Bearden believes it was accidental.
“We have an investigator looking, trying to find cause. The residents had reported electrical issues with both sides of the duplex in the past. That's something we're trying to look at. It could be a possible cause,” explained Bearden.
Bearden says damage is estimated at about $150,000 to the duplex and about $40,000 in content loss.
The American Red Cross is helping the displaced residents find another place to stay.