Fire destroys part of San Antonio condo complex

San Antonio fire­fighter, resident injured in Medical Center area condo fire

One resident and one firefighter were injured after a massive two-alarm fire broke out at a northwest side condo complex.

The fire broke out around 1:45 p.m. at the Castlewood Condos, located in the 4100 block of Medical Drive.

"I saw the flames start on the roof and it was fairly small and then it got really, really big,” said Elvira Stone, who witnessed the fire spark

A total of 39 units -- comprised of more than 100 firefighters -- were battling the blaze, but they were pulled off to take a defensive stance after an hour-long struggle against the flames.

A San Antonio Fire Department spokesman said once crews got to the scene, they were told a man was trapped on a third-floor balcony.

The man had a medical condition and crews struggled to get him to the ground.

They were able to get him to down safely. He was taken to Methodist Hospital for treatment.

But one firefighter was injured during the rescue when he lost his balance on the ladder and fell some 20 feet to the ground.

That firefighter was taken to University Hospital in serious condition with broken bones.

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“We risk a lot to save a lot and that's what happened in this situation,” said SAFD Chief Charles Hood. “We made the ultimate risk to save this gentlemen who would have perished if we didn't go up and try to get him so, I'm really proud of the firefighters.”

Only one building in the complex -- Building A -- was affected. With the third floor just about completely gone, the second and first floors likely a total loss as well due to smoke and water damage. More than two dozen units at the complex were affected by the fire.

The condo complex in the middle of a heavily residential part of Medical Drive. Residents who live there were evacuated about 100 yards away, where they stood and watched the fire burn.

Fire crews had to close off Medical Drive in order to combat the fire, causing a traffic nightmare for the people who live and work in the Medical Center areal.

The smoke could be seen for miles across the city causing word to spread fast and sending many who live nearby rushing home to find out if their apartment was affected.

"You have all kinds of thoughts racing through your mind wondering if it’s happening at your place,” said Omar Najera, who lives across the street from Castlewood. “Every second just feels like an eternity that you’re trying to get home."

“Your mind is just going in all different directions as to what’s going on. You’re just trying to prepare yourself,” said Melissa Gonzales, who lives at Castlewood but whose condo building did not burn.

San Antonio Chief Hood says most of the residents were not home at the time and that because the building was isolated, they did not have to evacuate any other units.

There has been no damage estimate yet, but fire officials say the third floor is a total loss.

Fire officials have not announced a cause for what started the fire. Arson investigators were called to the scene to help make a determination. A total of 27 units were lost.

In 2007, firefighters battled an enormous three-alarm fire at the same condos. An electrical problem was ultimately blamed for that blaze. 

Images: Medical Center-area apartment fire


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