AUSTIN (KXAN) — A woman has been charged with first-degree arson after she was accused of starting a fire that devastated an east Austin duplex and displaced two families, an Austin Fire Department spokesman confirms.
Olga Guzman-Calderon, 55, was arrested and booked into jail. She is the sister of one of the residents who lived on one side of the duplex. The family living on the other side of the duplex said they did not know Guzman-Calderon, they had only seen her visiting a few times.
Firefighters responded to the fire at 6904 Aries Lane just after 8 a.m. on Sunday.
A spokesperson says first-responders got to the scene within three and a half minutes and saw heavy fire coming from the front of the duplex.
One of the victims that was trapped inside is deaf and mute, he woke up because of the heat and burns. He was able to verbalize enough to alert the residents inside, and firefighters were able to help get them out through a side door, AFD said.
A total of seven people were home at the time of the fire. AFD said that a total of nine people were displaced as a result of this blaze.
Austin-Travis County EMS treated one child and an adult for burns and were taken to Dell Seton where they were treated and later released.
“The two people that were able to escape that had the burns, got out at the very last second, its reported fire blocking the front door, they had to go out a side door,” said Austin Fire Division Chief Palmer Buck.
The duplex is a total loss, a guinea pig was lost in the fire and two families consisting of four adults and five children have been displaced. They are being helped by the American Red Cross.
16-year-old Dulce Guzman and her two brothers were asleep at the time the fire started, they were the only family members in their side of the duplex when the fire happened.
“It was just fire against the wall everywhere,” she recalled
Guzman and her two brothers attempted to escape the flames, but wound up getting stuck by a couch blocking their way and a nail that was stopping up a door.
Guzman’s bare skin got burned as she was trying to escape, she and her brother went to the hospital to be treated for first and second-degree burns. Her younger brother wanted her to go back into the house to rescue their guinea pig, but by that time it was too late.
The woman arrested on arson charges is Guzman’s aunt.
“One selfish person can really ruin your life,” Guzman said of her aunt.
Guzman burst into tears thinking about the amount of work that she, her mom, and her dad have put into their home. They’ve lived there for the past couple of years.
“It has a lot of memories,” she said, looking on the charred wreckage of her old home.
Guzman explained that her family has lost “literally everything” from inside their portion of the duplex and that she is not sure where they will be able to find an affordable place to stay long term.
Their neighbors in the other half of the duplex were able to salvage some of their possessions, but will still experience significant financial loss as a result of this fire. Two cars they have bought recently were burned, one of which will no longer be usable.
The fire was knocked down in about 5 minutes and an AFD spokesman says there was an estimated $350,000 in damages to the structure, $100,000 in contents, $5,000 for the loss of a car and another $500 in damage on the property.
At this time, a motive has not been determined. AFD said they are still investigating exactly started the fire and what part of the duplex it began in. They believe the woman arrested related to this case was at the duplex that morning when the fire started.
The Guzman family, one of the two families displaced by this fire, said they are looking for help finding a long-term place to stay. If you can assist them call (512)657-6046.