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Fire leaves dozens without shelter

High winds created 'smoke tornadoes' and hampered firefighters
Dale Lezo, Houston Chronicle
Updated 12:09 am, Tuesday, March 5, 2013

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  • A fire broke out about 10:30 a.m. March 4 at The Worthington at the Beltway in the 1300 block of Greens Parkway near Fall Lake. Photo: By Cody Duty

    A fire broke out about 10:30 a.m. March 4 at The Worthington at the Beltway in the 1300 block of Greens Parkway near Fall Lake.

    Photo: By Cody Duty

 

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A wind-whipped fire ripped through a north Houston apartment complex on Monday, charring about 60 units and leaving dozens of residents with little more than the clothes on their backs.

The fast-moving blaze broke out about 10:30 a.m. at The Worthington at the Beltway in the 1300 block of Greens Parkway near Fall Lake, according to the Houston Fire Department. Crews had the fire under control by noon.

One woman hurt her foot as she was fleeing the flames, but her injuries were minor, said HFD spokesman Jay Evans.

Evans said high winds hampered firefighters and pushed the flames to two adjacent buildings.

"The wind was taking not only the sparks, but the heat, and setting other buildings on fire," he said.

Evans said "smoke tornadoes" billowed through the courtyard between the buildings. Dense black smoke could be seen over Interstate 45 and the Beltway, with plumes being blown to the north.

Investigators were trying to determine what sparked the fire.

Residents who had run from the smoke and flames stood across the street watching their apartments and everything inside them burn as firefighters battled to get the upper hand.

'I saw huge flames'

Laura Huston said she was in her apartment with her husband and their 2-year-old son when she heard the commotion outside. She looked out her window and saw people running in the courtyard. Then she saw a firetruck pull into the parking lot. She picked up her baby and ran outside.

"Thick smoke was everywhere," she said. "I couldn't see where I was going, I couldn't see anything at all and prayed that we'd be safe. Some wind blew the smoke away, and I saw huge flames. My first thought was to get my baby out of this smoke."

Huston said undoubtedly all of their possessions and family photographs and mementoes were going to be destroyed. However, she's happy no one was hurt. "I have my son. That's most important."

Huston said she thinks the family will probably stay with her mother-in-law until they can get on their feet.

One young couple also feared they probably lost everything in their damaged apartment, but they had one bright spot: a firefighter saved their 3-month-old puppy, Lady.

Fabian Douglas said he and fiancée Penny Bright heard people banging on neighbors' doors and didn't know what was wrong. Then a firefighter came to their unit and told them to leave. They ran out and didn't have time to pick up anything, not even Lady.

Once they were safely across the street, Douglas told a fire captain about the dog and a firefighter returned to their apartment for the puppy. He found the dog and carried her out to Douglas.

Bright cradled the little black pup in her arms.

"Everything is gone," Douglas said. "The puppy was my engagement present to my fianceé. I'm just glad we got the dog out."

No place to stay

Danero Richardson said he was asleep when his girlfriend heard noise outside. He ran out and started banging on neighbors' doors.

His girlfriend and his two young children all made it outside safely, but he also expects his apartment and everything in it to be destroyed. Richardson said they have no place to stay.

"I don't know what we're going to do," he said.