SAN ANTONIO – Neighbors and first responders rushed to get residents out of their homes at an apartment complex on the city's Southeast Side. Firefighters say they have reason to believe someone ignited a fire on a first floor apartment balcony Saturday morning.
Fire units were called out to Pecan Valley Golf Club Apartments located in the 5000 block of Pecan Grove around 7 a.m.
Three families, including five adults and two children, will no longer be able to live under the same roof.
Battalion Chief Connie Hall says the building is not an entire loss. However, two units were severely damaged and electricity has been cut off to the building.
Hall says the fire started in Shindarra Brown's balcony near her BBQ pit. Brown was asleep when she realized something was wrong. "I jumped out of bed because I heard the glass (break) and smelt smoke," Brown said.
Once outside, Brown watched as the flames destroyed everything and spread upstairs. She soon realized there was one member of her family stuck inside the apartment: her service dog.
"He was under the bed, scared and shivering," Brown said. Brown said she had a tough time convincing her best friend Hercules to get out of the apartment. "He's my service animal. I suffer from PTSD depression and anxiety."
The focus now is to determine how this fire started. Hall admits that although the investigation is in its preliminary stages, there are some major red flags in this case.
"It is suspicious. We've been out here several times in the last couple of days. We were also out here last week for suspicious fire set in the exterior of this same building," Hall said.
Bianca Walasky says she witnessed that fire from her home across the street and helped evacuate those living in the building. Saturday morning she came back with her hands full.
"We just bought jackets that we don't use anymore, something to just help out for now," Walasky said. "There (were) people out here standing in the cold, and you just do what you would hope someone would do for you."
Victims were able to enter their home to gather some belongings before being transferred to another apartment, but Brown was left with nothing but her ID card and Hercules.
For those wanting to help Brown, she asks that people simply pray for her and bring some snacks or food for Hercules. Hercules eats both wet and dry Ol'Roy dog food.
Throughout Saturday morning, arson investigators remained on scene to gather evidence in efforts to identify the person behind these suspicious fires.