SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio fire investigators say the cause of a huge fire that destroyed more than a dozen units at a North Side apartment complex remains undetermined.
The fire broke out suddenly around 10:30 p.m. Monday just as many people at the Distinction Apartment Homes complex were getting ready for bed.
Jaime Martinez answered a loud knock at his door, then realized his family was in danger.
“I saw the smoke come in and I guess that's when my instincts kicked in,” he said.
Martinez ushered his wife and children to safety, then helped his neighbor and her seven children get out of their second-floor unit.
He said he had to scale the burning building from the outside in order to reach them.
“I actually climbed from the bottom (unit) and grabbed myself from the rails and jumped up and helped her with the kids,” he said.
Firefighters were also having a tough time, both with the elements and the environment at the apartment complex, located in the 11700 block of Parliament Street.
“We did have some wind gusts and then maneuvering into an apartment as far as getting these large trucks into a tight complex,” said Fire Chief Charles Hood.
They also had to deal with roofs and walls collapsing around them, he said.
At one point, Hood said, there were more than 100 firefighters battling the blaze.
In the end, two buildings, including 16, apartments were consumed by the fire.
While everyone escaped injury, there was a lot of property destroyed.
“It's more of the priceless things that were given to me by my dad or my grandma,” Martinez said.
Dusty Rhoades came back after daylight, hoping to access her apartment.
Under a desk in one corner of her home that was untouched by the flames sat a box full of family memories.
She said firefighters initially told her the building was unsafe and would have to be torn down with her precious possessions inside.
Later, though, they were able to recover the box and present it to her.
“This is 200 years of family history right here. This means more than anything else,” she said through tears.
She carefully went through the box, occasionally holding black-and-white photos of grandparents and great-grandparents and reciting their history.
The future for her and her neighbors, though, is still uncertain right now.
KSAT 12 News spoke to several people who lost their homes and say they don’t know where they will end up next.