Fire victim: Lightning striking apartment building ‘sounded like a bomb’

Eight families at Villa Rodriguez displaced by overnight fire

A destructive fire caused by lightning has left eight Northeast Side families struggling to rebuild their lives.

SAN ANTONIO – A destructive fire caused by lightning has left eight Northeast Side families struggling to rebuild their lives.

14 adults, 3 children displaced by overnight fire sparked by lightning

The flames that erupted around 2 a.m. Tuesday destroyed an entire building at the Villa Rodriguez apartments, located in the 3400 block of Salado Creek Drive.

“Lightning struck, apparently, the roof and on our arrival the fire was through the roof,” said Battalion Chief Will Pritchett with the San Antonio Fire Department. “It was pretty advanced.”

Firefighters had to use a ladder truck to extinguish flames that burned through the roof at the Villa Rodriguez apartments. (KSAT 12 News)

While the fire commanded their attention, firefighters also were concerned about human lives.

The building was home to 17 people, including three children.

“It was amazingly horrific,” said Pete Venegas, who lived on the ground floor. “It sounded like a bomb went off when the lightning hit the top of the building.”

Venegas happened to be wide awake, watching television at the time. He said he suddenly saw everything around him begin to change.

“It just blew the electronics. They were smoking, so I said, “There’s a fire here.”

He said he and his girlfriend quickly got dressed and got out of the apartment, grabbing what they could.

Once outside, he found out that most of his neighbors had done the same.

Still, some people needed a wakeup call from police and firefighters.

“Thank goodness we were able to evacuate everybody in a timely manner, and no one was injured,” Pritchett said.

There was one pet that was unaccounted for even hours after most of the fire had been extinguished.

Later, Venegas was able to salvage a small box load of items from his apartment.

“But we’re healthy,” he said. “We didn’t get burned up.”

Firefighters said between the apartment complex and the American Red Cross, help in finding new homes would be made available to all the people who had been displaced.

About the Authors:

Katrina Webber joined KSAT 12 in December 2009. She reports for Good Morning San Antonio. Katrina was born and raised in Queens, NY, but after living in Gulf Coast states for the past decade, she feels right at home in Texas. It's not unusual to find her singing karaoke or leading a song with her church choir when she's not on-air.

Tim has been a photojournalist and video editor at KSAT since 1998. He came to San Antonio from Lubbock, where he worked in TV and earned his bachelor's degree in Electronic Media and Communication from Texas Tech University. Tim has won a handful of awards and has earned a master's in Strategic Communication and Innovation from Tech as well.