Senior living center didn't have sprinkler system

Wedgwood Apartments didn't require sprinkler system when built in 1962

SAN ANTONIO(Editor's note: Updated 6:05 p.m.)

During a news conference late Monday afternoon, Castle Hills city officials released the following information:

  • 60 residents are now unaccounted for. That's down from 80 earlier Monday.
  • The fire originated in a third-floor apartment, but no cause has been determined. 
  • Smoke detectors were installed throughout the building.
  • The building didn't have a sprinkler system. Since the building was built in 1962, it wasn't required then to have a sprinkler system. The building was grandfathered in 2012, when sprinklers were required. Fire Chief G.R. Riedel said only a major renovation would have required a sprinkler system.

(More information to follow)

The Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office on Monday released the identifies of two of five people who died in a fire Sunday morning at the Wedgwood Apartments.

Karen Rae Betz, 74, died of asphyxia by smoke inhalation, the ME's office said. Jose Gonzlaes, 75, died of smoke inhalation and complications from cardiovascular disease.

Eighteen other people suffered injuries, and hundreds of others were displaced when fire and smoke overtook the building located on Blanco Road near Loop 410.

On Monday afternoon, apartment management released the following statement regarding the fire:

"This was tragic. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected. We appreciate the work of the first responders and all those who are helping," the statement read.

The high-rise apartments house mostly seniors, some of whom are unable to walk. Firefighters could be seen carrying people down ladders on their backs.

As of Monday morning, the city of Castle Hills was still trying to locate 80 residents who still were listed as unaccounted for.

However, City Manager Diane Pfeil said the missing were not believed to be inside the building.

"We searched the entire building," Pfeil said. "We just don't know if they left with loved ones right after the incident happened. They also could have been out of town."

Officials are urging unaccounted residents to call the Castle Hills Police Department at 210-342-2341.

Also at the top of the city's priority list was getting much-needed medications to the people who escaped.

Pfeil said after the fire, firefighters went into every apartment and salvaged all the prescriptions they could find.

Pfeil said the medications have been separated into bags and are available for pick up at Castle Hills City Hall, located at 209 Lemonwood Drive.

Pfeil said that also is where people can drop off donations, such as clothing, for the displaced.  

"They literally walked out with what is on their backs," she said.

The search also continues for the cause of the fire.

Castle Hills' investigator, along with help from Bexar County and state arson investigators, spent the night and part of Monday morning looking for clues.  

Pfeil also said the building is inspected every six months.

"I have been verbally told and I'm getting a report on that," Pfeil said. "There was one in September of 2014 and there were no violations."

Resident Anthony Morales said the center doesn't have staff that works 24/7.

"They don't live on the premise," Morales said. "They work there and they go home every day. And I think people should stay there to see who needs help in the middle of the night."

Morales also said residents don't have access to emergency pull-cord alarms.

"We don't have a string on the bed or in the restroom for emergencies," he said.

The Burned Out Survivors' Fund, a non-profit charitable organization that assists fire victims and their families, is accepting monetary donations for residents of the Wedgwood Apartments. 

Click here for more information on how to donate.