Massive 5-alarm fire destroys apartment complex near Houston

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by MICHELLE HOMER

KHOU 11 News Houston

Posted on March 25, 2014 at 5:12 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 25 at 9:23 PM

HOUSTON – An entire apartment complex was gutted when a roaring fire raced through it on West Dallas in Montrose Tuesday afternoon. The fire started at 12:30 p.m. and quickly went to five alarms as the flames spread out of control.

There were no injuries, but a construction worker had to be rescued from the third floor, according to HFD.

Employees at a nearby high-rise say the worker tried to use a fire extinguisher to put out the flames on the roof, but the blaze suddenly began spreading. They watched in horror as the man looked desperately for a way to get down.

"The firemen did rescue him, but he did have to drop down a floor as the entire top floor started burning," the employee said in an email. She didn’t want to give her name.

At one point, the worker dangled perilously from a third floor balcony.

"Oh my God. I hope they got him off," said another witness who videotaped the rescue and collapse. "He’s on the ladder. He’s safe. He’s safe, oh thank God."

"Once he was on the ladder, a section of the building collapsed and was very close to hitting the ladder," the first witness said.

All of the other construction workers were accounted for by late afternoon.

Within 20 minutes after the blaze broke out, the flames had spread across the entire complex through a common breezeway. The Axis was still under construction near the Montrose intersection and wasn’t occupied.

"It is very hot. Imagine how tough it is for the firefighters in heavy gear battling this fire," said KHOU 11 News reporter Marcelino Benito, who was at the scene.

Ladder trucks sprayed water on the raging inferno to keep it from spreading to nearby structures.

The AIG building was evacuated as a precaution.

The wind created another challenge for some 200 firefighters who battled the flames.

"This couldn’t have happened on a worse day," said KHOU 11 News Meteorologist Brooks Garner. "The wind is moving from the northwest at 15 mph, with gusts over 20 mph."

Police closed surrounding streets from Allen Parkway to West Clay and from Waugh to Columbus causing traffic snarls that continued into rush hour. 

The fire appeared to be mostly contained by 2 p.m. to a smoldering pile of rubble and ashes.

Fire crews stayed on the scene to put out the last stubborn flames and to monitor hot spots.

This is the same complex KHOU 11 News reported on Monday night because it was built a few feet away from a historic cemetery. Magnolia Cemetery has been there since 1884.

The centuries-old headstones include familiar names in Houston history, including Bammel, Halliburton, Wortham and Telge.

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