Cecelia Johnson smelled smoke in her second floor apartment shortly before 1 o'clock this afternoon, and she walked to her bedroom window to see what happened. Johnson's complex wasn't on fire, but just outside her window, the West Alabama Place Apartments had turned into "a huge, billowing cloud of smoke."
"I kept watching [the firefighters] pull stuff out of the apartments, and I kept waiting for them to pull out a person," Johnson told Hair Balls. "That's one good thing about having the fire department around the corner. Thank god no one was hurt."
The fire department had the fire down at about 1:10 p.m., according to Terry Stone, a deputy chief with the Houston Fire Department. A center wall in the building acted as a firewall, he said, keeping the fire contained but causing it to run the entire length of that side. No one was injured in the fire, and investigators didn't know the cause early this afternoon, Stone said.
The complex, on the corner of West Alabama and Dunlavy, is about a quarter-mile from the March 30 fire truck crash that injured nine firefighters and killed a woman.
In the Fiesta grocery store parking lot across the street, Maria DeMaio stood crying because her apartment was destroyed. DeMaio had "driven like a maniac" from work when she heard about the fire.
"I was just about to get renters insurance," DeMaio said. "I was calling today for quotes."
She said about 150 people lived in the complex where she has lived with her husband and pet Chihuahua for the last five years.
"I don't see my husband's car," DeMaio said. "I don't think he had a chance to get the dog out."