Center for Refugee Services ‘on standby’ after apartment fire on Northwest Side

Witnesses share their experiences

SAN ANTONIO – A fire at the Sierra Ranch Apartments left 15 families displaced, including refugees from the Center for Refugee Services. Center officials shared their reactions to the news and how this will affect its refugees.

The moment Margaret Constantino, executive director of the Center for Refugee Services, saw the KSAT 12 web alert about a fire at the Sierra Ranch Apartments on Datapoint, she, sadly, knew what to expect.

“It’s very heartbreaking,” Constantino said. “I knew we were going to get clients coming to us for help because a lot of refugees do live there.”

Constantino stated that they remain vigilant as they wait to assist affected families.

“We’re just standing by. Families know they can contact us, and we will do what we can,” Constantino said.

Alongside the American Red Cross, the Center for Refugees is offering its assistance, providing needs such as food and clothing. The center is also offering temporary help to those staying with refugee families in other nearby apartment complexes.

The center will offer furniture and kitchen supplies to those affected once new apartments have been secured.

Basir Lakanwal, a center volunteer, said he was able to help a friend during the fire by waking him up, allowing his friend to grab important belongings such as documents and a computer, unlike others who lost everything.

“It’s very sad,” Lakanwal said, given the families are having to start over again after escaping the Taliban and coming this far to call San Antonio home.

Constantino said, “I know it’s just tragic, but that’s where the community becomes very important, not only the Afghan community but the fact that they trust us and that they’ll come here.”

It was initially believed that the fire started on an apartment patio, went up a wall and into the attic, ultimately damaging 18 units, and leaving one with a huge gaping hole in the roof. However, the cause of the fire “may be difficult” to determine, said an SAFD spokesperson.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.


15 families displaced after fire rips through apartment complex in Medical Center area

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.