Residents jumped to safety in Everman apartment fire; arson believed to be cause

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by JIM DOUGLAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas

WFAA

Posted on January 2, 2014 at 4:38 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 2 at 8:27 PM

Everman Apartment Fire

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EVERMAN –– Fire officials in the Tarrant County town of Everman said a morning fire that displaced 60 people and ruined 24 units appears to have been deliberately set.

Residents say a young man who used to live at the apartments came banging on doors early Thursday. They say when no one let him in, he took his revenge by starting the fire with a flammable liquid, possibly charcoal lighter fluid.

The flames began at about 8 a.m. and black smoke was still visible at 12:30 p.m. at the Oakwood Terrace Apartments at 917 Coury Street.

Ashley Ramirez opened her door to face roaring flames. She said someone had just set fire to her neighbor's door, and she was trapped inside her second-floor unit.

She said she woke her sleeping son and daughter, 5 and 3 years old, respectively, and kicked out a screen before dropping her children into the arms of a man calling to her from the ground.

He caught them, and then caught Ramirez when she jumped.

Responding Everman volunteer fire fighters confronted heavy flames and smoke, but officials say when they tapped three hydrants, pressure dropped too low to fight the fire. Tankers from other nearby departments were called in.

Many residents fled the complex wearing nothing more than their pajamas, said Anita Foster, Red Cross spokeswoman.

Officers have not made an arrest in the fire as of yet, and investigators still had not had access to the scene by late Thursday afternoon. The smoldering remains of the building were not safe to enter.

Residents turned into rescuers throughout the complex, banging on doors and carrying disabled and elderly people to safety.

“The doors opened, the fire’s blazing, the wind’s blowing; by the grace of God, we all got free,” said resident Juanita Less, "but I lost everything I own."

No one had time to save anything, said resident Gary Dickson. He said he lost two dogs and his parakeet in the fire.

In all, 24 units were damaged and two people were hospitalized, one of whom suffered smoke inhalation. The American Red Cross shuttled the 40-to-50 displaced residents to the Everman Community Center at 212 Race Street, where workers distributed shoes, socks and warm clothes.

The Tarrant County Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating. Everman is about 15 miles south of Fort Worth.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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