Investigators work to find cause of abandoned house fire near McNeil High School


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Investigators from the Travis County Fire Marshal’s Office are working to determine if someone possibly set the fire that destroyed an abandoned house on McNeil Drive in north Austin.

Firefighters from the Austin Fire Department could only surround the home and douse it from the outside because flames spread throughout the entire building, located at 5541 McNeil Drive.

At several points Thursday, firefighters had to put out grass fires sparked around the house, but none of those got out of control.

The fire happened east of McNeil High School. A message sent to families by the principal said students stayed inside for lunch as a safety precaution.

The hot temperatures Thursday also made crews take certain precautions to keep themselves safe.

“Recently we’ve been having a lot of heat exposure injuries,” Battalion Chief David Brietzke said, “so we try to do what we can to mitigate those by making sure we do pull our crews out and get them rehabbed appropriately, make sure we give them water and maybe some electrolyte drinks and bring in fresh crews. That’s basically all we can do.”

Crews responded to a fire in a field and structure on McNeil Drive Sept. 5, 2019 (KXAN Photo/Will DuPree)

The Travis County Sheriff’s Office is reporting that eastbound lanes of McNeil Drive could be shut down for two to three hours, affecting rush hour and pickup at McNeil High School.

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