Neighbor alerts family to burning home

SAFD: Fire appeared to have started in chimney area, spread through attic

By Garrett Brnger - Reporter, Joe Herrera - Photojournalist, Rob Garza - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - Mark Hallstein and his wife thought the smoke was just some weather, at first.

"Me and my wife were inside our house, and we thought we were seeing fog roll in," he said.

But when his wife went outside, Hallstein said, she smelled smoke. Running out front, he realized it was coming from across the street in the 7200 block of Sidbury Circle.

"So I ran across the street, banged on the door while my wife called 911, and we got everyone out of the house," Hallstein said.

Homeowner Dana Miranda said she had family over and a fire going in the fireplace, but until Hallstein came over, they didn't know there was another fire blazing away above them.

Miranda said there had been no smoke inside. When Hallstein told them about the fire, she said, she went outside and saw the upstairs on fire.

But when she went to the second floor to see if it was all on fire, she didn't see anything.

"I went into one of the closets in one of the rooms, and I saw through the vent - I saw flames. It was through the attic," Miranda said. "So that's why we didn't have any smoke."

San Antonio Fire Lt. Steve Torres said that when firefighters arrived, flames were already coming through the roof.

Arson investigators would look into the cause, he said, though it appeared the fire had started in the chimney area.

"Once it gets in the attic, it gets a little bit more air, and then flames start coming out both ends. Then it's very hard to contain it without doing a lot of water damage," Torres said.

The roof is "pretty much gone," Torres said. "If you go upstairs and look up, you're going to see sky."

"For sure, the top floor's going to need to be redone completely. The amount of water damage - the insurance adjusters have their work cut out for them."

There was not much smoke damage, though, Torres said, and firefighters were able to recover clothes, photos and medications for the family.

And things could have been worse.

"It would have been a very different situation if it was 3 in the morning and everyone was asleep," Torres said.

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