DALLAS Candles burning in an apartment with no electricity are being blamed for triggering a four-alarm fire in Southeast Dallas early Saturday morning.

Investigators said the flames spread to two buildings at the Mayan Palms complex in the 7500 block of Hunnicutt Road.

When News 8 met up with Jorge Mendoza, he was sitting in the passenger side of his sport utility vehicle. Mendoza had burns to his knees and feet. Fiery debris had fallen on him while he was making the escape from his apartment.

'When I was coming out, the floor was hot,' Mendoza said through a translator. 'I was trying to run out and burned my feet.'

'From one to three people are missing or unaccounted for,' said Dallas Fire-Rescue Section Chief J.C. Adams. 'We have a security guard whose belongings are in the office and we have not seen him, and there may have been two other people in the apartment.'

The guard was later located, and a thorough search of the debris uncovered no additional victims.

'We believe the cause is careless use of candles,' Adams said. '[An] occupant was using candles to illuminate his apartment and fell asleep.'

One person was taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital for treatment of second and third-degree burns to his legs and feet. A firefighter also suffered a minor elbow injury.

A total of 36 apartments in the two buildings were destroyed. The American Red Cross opened a shelter at the Samuel Grand Recreation Center, 6200 East Grand Avenue, to provide assistance to the more than 50 tenants who lost their homes.

'It was pretty bad... by the grace of God we're still here,' said Monterek Shannon, who lost everything in the fire. Crews spent the day clearing away all the debris and tearing down walls that stood precariously.

Charleston Sampson came from Mississippi and has been in North Texas for only three weeks. His wife woke him up and suddenly he was helping people get off the second floor. Sampson recalled having to drop three youngsters and a woman from a second floor balcony into the arms of another resident.

'Either let them sit up there and suffer or me try to help,' Sampson said.

One of the two-story buildings collapsed; firefighters demolished another building for safety reasons and the remaining building will also have to be demolished. The loss was estimated at $500,000.


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