A second roof slowed Houston firefighters as they tried to stop a fire from sweeping through a Park Lane townhouse.
No one was injured in the Aug. 4 fire, but a young family and a teenage tenant lost nearly all their belongings in the blaze. Insurance adjustors are now investigating, and have recommended tearing down all four of the townhouse units.
“The construction of the buildings made it really difficult,” said Fire Chief Jim Daigneault, noting that the four-unit townhouse was originally built with a flat, tar and gravel roof, but later a peaked roof was added on top.
When the fire started burning in the tar roof, Daigneault said his crew couldn’t spray water directly at it because the peaked roof was shielding the flames.
The crew did try climbing on the roof to hack holes in it for better access, he said, but that proved too dangerous.
Instead, Daigneault said they used a loader to collapse the walls of the first three units that already engulfed in flames and then managed to stop the fire from spreading to the last unit by spraying it from below.
Most of the other townhouses on Park Lane are built in a similar way.
“We’re aware of that now, so we can plan a bit differently,” Daigneault said.
Firefighters got a call for help at 10:44 p.m. on Saturday, he said. They responded with a crew of 15 and all three Houston fire engines.
“Everybody did a tireless job,” Daigneault added, noting that the last firefighters didn’t leave the scene until 13 hours later.
“It was a long, long night.”
Investigators are still trying to confirm what caused the fire.
The only tenant who was in the building at the time told neighbours he thinks it started in his kitchen after he fell asleep with something on the stove.
Tange Joseph lives in the house closest to the units where the fire started.
She said the 17-year-old tenant ran into her house and asked her to call for help.
“I called 9-1-1 and then I ran out across the road,” she said.
“The door was wide open and all you could see inside the door was that it was really red, really, really red.
“All I could hear was the crackling of the fire and the dishes falling and breaking.”
Joseph said the mother with three young children who lived in the only other occupied unit of the townhouse had just left for a camping trip.
“They came home to just this,” she said, pointing at the burned-out townhouse. “Nothing.”
But as news of the fire spread, several Houston residents stepped up to try and replace what they could.
“The support of the community—it’s absolutely amazing,” said Christine Landstrom, a building manager for Blackstone Enterprises, which owns the townhouse.
Both the young man and the young family have already rented other homes nearby, she said.
Landstrom said concerned residents and colleagues who work with the people who lost their homes quickly organized to gather clothes, furniture and other goods.
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