LIVE BLOG: 26 people’s apartments destroyed, damaged after fire in south Austin

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin fire crews battled a massive three-alarm fire at a construction site in south Austin early Thursday morning.

The fire was first reported at about 3:40 a.m. at a construction site at the 4000 block of Banister Lane in south Austin.

See our live updates below:

UPDATE: 5:06 p.m.

CEO of IMPACT Developers Herman Cardenas said they’re working with insurance companies to determine their next steps. IMPACT was building a 45-unit condo building called MESA. He said about 85% of the units were sold. Cardenas told KXAN the project was coming along ahead of schedule. While they aren’t sure when they can resume construction, they’re hoping they can soon.

AFD’s Battalion Chief Thayer Smith said the fire was one of the bigger fires they’ve had in the last decade.

“The radiant heat from that was something we haven’t seen in quite a while,” he said.

With the wooden frames, Smith said there was nothing that could’ve stopped the unfinished building from catching fire. “Just simply a whole block of lumber just to burn,” he said. “Eventually, this would’ve been a sprinkler building, but in this part of construction that’s not hooked up at all in any shape or form.”

Smith said fire investigators are waiting for everyone’s power to be restored, so they can review nearby home or business’ surveillance camera footage. But he said the cause will most likely remain undetermined.

He pointed out the construction site is fenced off, so access is limited.

UPDATE: 3:22 p.m.

Austin Fire Department’s early damage estimate for the fire damage is $2 million. The department will follow up on the numbers next week and a cause for the fire still remains under investigation.

UPDATE: 2:51 p.m.

The Austin Disaster Relief Network announced it is preparing to respond to the needs of victims of the fire. In a release, the network of church and volunteer teams said it will provide emotional care, in addition immediate financial assistance, emergency housing, clothing, supplies and long-term recovery support.

If you would like to make a donation to support victims via the network, you can visit adrn.org/give or call ADRN’s Call Center at (512) 806-0800.

UPDATE: 2:07 p.m.

Drone photos of the site before and after the fire

UPDATE: 12:30 p.m.: One person was hurt while evacuating the fire and one firefighter was treated for dehydration, the Austin Fire Department said.

“All occupants accounted for, however there are reports that several pets may have perished,” AFD tweeted.

The cause of the fire is still undetermined and AFD is working to estimate the damage to the two apartment buildings, one building under construction, nine vehicles and construction equipment.

UPDATE: 11 a.m.: Austin fire officials say a total of 26 people have officially been displaced. They were the residents of buildings 3905 and 3909 in the Run of the Oaks apartment complex.

Building 3905 had four units and the other had eight units.

Austin Energy says they have restored power to all but 64 customers after utility poles and transformers were damaged in the fire.

UPDATE: 9:30 a.m.: Austin Energy is working to reroute circuits to get power restored to more than 200 customers. The agency said they will have to replace three poles and one overhead transformer. Two underground transformers remain out of service and crews will have to clean and repair poles that have soot and wire damage.

A new tweet from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality shows that the air quality index in Austin is still good despite the amount of smoke that billowed from the flames.

UPDATE: 9:15 a.m.: A KXAN source at the American Red Cross of Central Texas said they believe there are about 30 people whose apartments were either badly damaged or completely destroyed.

UPDATE: 9 a.m.: Austin fire officials say all people have been accounted for and are safe.

UPDATE: 8:10 a.m.: Three people are unaccounted for, according to Austin Fire Department Chief Thayer Smith.

Austin-Travis County EMS two people were evaluated at the scene. One woman was taken to the hospital with minor, non life-threatening injuries. The other person refused treatment.

ATCEMS told KXAN they were likely injured during the evacuation and not as a result of the fire.

UPDATE: 7:50 a.m.: The American Red Cross of Central Texas is at the scene to assist residents displaced and affected in the fire. It is still unknown how many people have been displaced.

Westbound traffic on Ben White Boulevard and the State Highway 71 frontage road is down to one lane at Banister Lane. The Banister overpass is also closed for the whole day as fire investigations continue.

Austin fire arson investigators are at the scene, which is a normal part of fire investigations.

A neighbor had Krispy Kreme doughnuts delivered to Austin fire crews at the scene to thank them for their hard work to get the fire under control. A Kerbey Lane cafe employee told KXAN a couple of evacuees came to the restaurant to wait during the fire response and the restaurant bought them food.

UPDATE: 7:10 a.m.: Austin Fire Department Captain Andy Reardon told KXAN two apartment buildings in the Tramor at Oak Run apartment complex are complete losses after the fire spread from the construction site.

Neighbors were woken by the light and heat from the fire. One resident said the heat melted the blinds on his window.

UPDATE: 6:50 a.m.: Austin Independent School District says nearby Galindo Elementary School has power and the school day will be on schedule.

Schools will work with students who are impacted by traffic issues as a result of the fire, according to an AISD spokesperson.

UPDATE: 6:40 a.m.: Fire and emergency response crews will be at the scene of the fire collecting information and checking on nearby residents and buildings all of Thursday and possibly tomorrow.

Traffic on Banister Lane near State Highway 71 will be impacted through the morning, according to the Austin Transportation Department.

UPDATE: 6:15 a.m.: Austin fire Chief Thayer Smith said a three-story wood structure, which was an apartment building that was under construction, was the initial source of the fire.

The first report of the fire came from a resident across the street who noticed the blaze, Smith said. By the time crews arrived at the scene, the flames were so massive that the fire was immediately upgraded to two- and then three-alarms.

The three-story structure that originally caught on fire is a total loss. The fire then spread to nearby occupied apartment complexes.

Smith said damages so far include:

  • 2 apartment buildings completely destroyed and rendered uninhabitable (8 units per building)
  • 2 to 3 apartment buildings at least partially burned
  • 8 vehicles burned

The buildings that caught fire were immediately evacuated by fire crews and so far there have been no injuries reported.

Austin Energy is working to restore power to residents who lost power due to damaged utility poles.

UPDATE: 5:55 a.m.: Austin Energy spokesperson Calily Bien told KXAN initial assessment shows that about half a dozen utility poles were damaged in the fire. At last check, about 1,000 customers are without power as a result.

UPDATE: 5:40 a.m.: The fire started at an apartment complex that was under construction. It then spread to nearby apartment complexes, sources told KXAN. Some residents told KXAN crews came by and knocked on doors to help evacuate the buildings.

UPDATE: 5:15 a.m.: Sources told KXAN the fire broke out at an apartment complex that was under construction. The site has been destroyed by the fire.

There are several apartment complexes nearby and some residents told KXAN firefighters came to their door to alert them and evacuate. Other residents said they woke up because they were hot and realized the massive fire was blazing nearby.

About 1,000 nearby homes and businesses lost power as a result of the fire, Austin Energy tweeted.

“The fire has damaged several of our nearby utility poles in the area. We’re working to isolate the circuit to restore power to some customers,” the tweet read.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

KXAN’s Candy Rodriguez, Julie Karam, Chris Davis, Chris Nelson, Sally Hernandez, John Dabkovich, Katie Bosnjak, Daniel Gravois and Jose Torres all contributed to this report.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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