Neighbors stunned by damage massive fire caused at NW Side apartment complex

About 20 families lost homes, possessions

SAN ANTONIO – A fire that sent up huge flames and clouds of smoke over a Northwest Side apartment complex Sunday night continued to draw widespread attention Monday morning.

Neighbors and others who heard about the massive fire at the Frederick Apartments filed toward Building 5 shortly after daylight to look at the destruction.

The back side of the building showed it is uninhabitable. All of the apartments had major damage, most with collapsed roofs and missing walls.

Most of the apartments on what had been the top floor of a 3-story building were destroyed. All of the others were left with major damage. (KSAT 12 News)

“This is very sad,” said Rebecca Brooklier, who lives in a different building at the complex. “This is terrible. I can’t even believe this is happening right now.”

Brooklier had watched the commotion from her home before 9 p.m. Sunday, hoping and praying that her neighbors were safe.

“The smoke was still going, and they were still trying to put the fire out right here,” she said, pointing to one end of the building. “It was dangerous.”

San Antonio firefighters seem to have faced a losing battle from the beginning.

Fire Chief Charles Hood told reporters the fire already had a head start when crews arrived at the property, located near Gus Eckert and Fredericksburg Road.

He says the flames and smoke, though, were only part of the problem.

“We had challenges with the wind. We had challenges with the elevation, and we had water issues, supply issues, as far as trying to get water on this fire,” Hood said.

Fire hydrants that were closest to the building were not working properly, he said.

Crews had to tap into other hydrants that were located downhill from the elevated apartment complex.

Hood said that struggle to pump water uphill caused delays, allowing the fire to burn out of control.

He, however, did not specify what the problems were or whose job it is to maintain the hydrants.

Joe Arrington, a public information officer with SAFD, said the private hydrants on the property and the SAWS hydrants along Gus Eckert “had extremely low pressure.”

“We never rely on the private hydrants; however SAWS is responsible for the main hydrants along the road so we assume they will be following up,” Arrington said. “Low water pressure and hydrants not operating were the main issues… along with a long, uphill lay from the good hydrants on Fredericksburg Road.”

About 20 families, meanwhile, have lost almost everything and are looking for new places to live.

Neighbors say the American Red Cross provided immediate assistance to some of those residents.

As of 10 a.m. Monday, fire investigators were still working to determine the exact cause of the fire.

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.

Azian Bermea is a photojournalist at KSAT.

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