AUSTIN (KXAN) — An early morning fire injured five people and forced about 50 others to evacuate from an apartment building in North Austin. Austin Travis County EMS say two children were among the five hurt.
The fire started at about 3:30 a.m. at the Avesta Solano Apartments at the 8800 block of N. Interstate Hwy. 35, which is south of Rundberg Lane. The Austin Fire Department says Building 3 suffered heavy damage.
EMS officials said two adults were taken to Dell Seton Medical Center with burns and smoke inhalation. Two children were hospitalized for smoke inhalation, and a third adult was evaluated at the scene and later transported for treatment as well. Austin fire officials expect all the victims to make a full recovery.
Officials said two of the adults who were hospitalized and the two children were all in the apartment where the initial fire started.
Just before 8 a.m., Austin fire officials provided an update, determining the fire was accidental and caused by “improperly discarded smoking material.“
The fire originated on a third-floor balcony, then extended into two apartments and the attic. Fire damage was limited to those two units, officials wrote, but six other apartments had fire control, water and smoke damage. Officials estimate that the fire caused $100,000 worth of structural damage and $25,000 worth of content damage.
A spokesperson for the local American Red Cross chapter told KXAN that the fire destroyed five apartments and displaced nine people altogether. Most of them have now been moved to vacant apartments in the same complex.
Jamie Rojas lives in the apartment two floors below where the fire began. She, her husband and their two-year-old son made it out safely Monday morning, and their apartment sustained only minor water damage.
“Because of one cigarette, they can cause a lot of damage to us, to people, innocent people,” Rojas said. “It could have been worse. Maybe someone could have died.”
She and her family are currently staying with her mother-in-law, and they plan to leave after hearing about another major fire at this complex last year.
“We’re probably going to move,” Rojas said. “We don’t like that, mostly because I have a two-year-old son. It makes me scared.”
In Jan. 2018, an accidental fire at the apartment complex left 30 people and several pets displaced. This fire was also caused by smoking materials that were improperly disposed of, officials said at the time.
Austin Fire officials at the scene told KXAN that weather didn’t help as they worked to get the fire under control.
“It’s been a brutal couple of days with these winds, this cold front, dry cold front,“ said AFD Division Chief Palmer Buck. “We’ve seen several fires this morning — a couple of grass fires and a trash fire. This wind and drying conditions, it has been problematic.“
“A total of 24 units and 40 people evacuated but apartment Mgmt. Working to restore power and reoccupy most of the units [sic],“ fire officials tweeted. Central Texas Red Cross is working with the apartment management to help displaced residents.
Austin Police also shut down most of the southbound I-35 frontage lanes in that area, which also has caused onlooker delays on I-35.