The Hendrix Apartments were the scene of a much more extensive blaze almost exactly five years ago.
“At least I am alive,” said Edward Santiago, who lost all of his possessions.
Dozens of people lost everything Monday when fire tore through a Northwest Austin apartment building almost five years to the day after the same complex sustained much more extensive fire damage.
Firefighters were alerted to the blaze at the Hendrix Apartment Homes, in the 9800 block of Copper Creek Drive, north of Anderson Mill Road, shortly before 9:30 a.m., officials said. The fire was confined to a single building in the complex, but before it was extinguished it destroyed 12 units and rendered the remaining 12 uninhabitable due to smoke and water damage, Jollyville Fire Chief John Kiracofe said.
Crews cut off power and utilities as they scoured the burned building to determine what caused the blaze. By press time Monday, it was still undetermined.
As smoke loomed over the complex in the afternoon, displaced residents huddled in the leasing office, clutching the last of their belongings and holding fast to their pets. No one was injured in the blaze, officials said.
A fire on Dec. 20, 2012, destroyed 68 apartments at the complex, then known as the International Residences, displacing more than 100 people.
Edward Santiago, 45, was living at the complex during both fires.
On Monday, he awoke to a burning smell in his first-floor apartment, followed by the sound of an alarm and pounding on his door. He escaped the blaze with only a satchel on his back and his 17-year-old cat, Cinnamon.
“She has been with me since she was a kitten,” he said outside the leasing office. “We have been through thick and thin. The good, the bad, the ugly.”
Santiago said everything he owns was inside his apartment, and while most of the goods can be replaced, there were some sentimental items, such as trophies and awards and a leather jacket his father gave him as a parting gift when he left Puerto Rico for the United States.
“It’s stuff that you have for a long time, things that I have had since my childhood and things about my life,” he said. “At least I am alive. That’s the good thing.”
Officials on Monday did not have a final tally on how many were displaced. Apartment staffers and the Red Cross were assisting to make sure all residents had a place to sleep Monday night. Vacant apartments were opened up to residents.
The Lewis family, after learning of the fire, arrived at the complex with a guitar, singing Christmas carols to lift spirits and even giving one family, a couple with a dog, $400 to help cover losses.
“We were able to pass a Christmas blessing to others,” Linda Lewis said. “I’m sure they will need it.”