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Dozens unaccounted for days after fatal apartment fire

Wedgwood apartment building not equipped with sprinkler system

SAN ANTONIO – Two days after a fire claimed five lives and injured 18 people at the Wedgwood senior living apartments, 60 residents remained unaccounted for as of Monday evening. 

Hours after the Sunday morning fire, 98 of the 350 Wedgwood residents were unaccounted for, according to Castle Hills City Manager Diane Pfeil. Most are believed to be staying with loved ones. 

Residents are being asked to contact Castle Hills City Hall at 210-342-2341 to let the city know they are safe.

"We also have secondary efforts in conjunction with the Red Cross and the Precinct 3 Constables Office to gather other essential items for the displaced residents," said Pfeil. "But I caution, this is going to be medical necessitates, not niceties." 

Two of the victims killed have been identified as Jose Gonzales, 73, and Karen Betz, 74.   

Betz died from asphyxia by smoke inhalation, according to the Bexar County Medical Examiners Office, while Gonzales died from smoke inhalation and complications related to cardiovascular disease. 

In a press conference Monday, city leaders revealed the 11 story apartment building was equipped with smoke detectors, hoses and a fire alarm, but did not have a sprinkler system because the structure was grandfathered in after the city adopted new regulations two years ago.  

The building was constructed in 1962.  

"It was not until 2012 when we adopted the international building code which was then when sprinkler systems were required," Pfeil said. 

Pfeil adds the Castle Hills Fire Department inspected the building in September and found no violations.  

A copy of that inspection report has not yet been released.  

Police and firefighters collected medications from the burned units and took them to Castle Hills City Hall, located at 209 Lemonwood, where residents can collect them.  

Donations to the displaced residents can be taken to city hall, as well. 

"Seeing the story, seeing the seniors, it just touched my heart and I felt it was the right thing to do," Yvonne Luna said after she dropped of donations of clothes and blankets. 

"I've lived here over 60 years, and I've never seen the community come together like they did," said Castle Hills Mayor Tim Howell.  

Fire responders have rescued 10 cats and a guinea pig from the charred apartments and reunited the animals with their owners.  

They plan to search for more pets Tuesday. 

The Bexar County fire marshal is leading the investigation into the cause of the fire, assisted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  

Wedgwood is an independent senior-living facility composed of 297 units.  

Wedgwood Apartment management issued a statement Monday that read, "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." 

Flags at Castle Hills City Hall flew at half-staff Monday. 


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