Hyde Park apartment fire forces dozens to evacuate

Apartment fire (Chris Nelson/KXAN)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A fire at an apartment complex in Austin’s Hyde Park neighborhood forced dozens of University of Texas students to evacuate. The Red Cross helped the people left without a home and worked to set up a shelter at UT’s Rec Center, which is near the Longhorns’ football stadium. Still, Red Cross representatives say most of the people displaced are staying with friends.

“I looked outside, and our next door neighbors were running out of their apartments. And I just see flames everywhere,” said Candace McKinney, whose building was next to the one that caught fire. “I woke my parents up, I woke my roommate up, and we got out of there.”

The flames broke out around 2:30 a.m. Monday at the Walnut Run apartment complex on 3202 Helms St., near Speedway and 32nd streets. Within minutes, Austin firefighters reported heavy fire coming from a second floor apartment and upgraded the call to a second alarm. They had the fire knocked down by 3 a.m. but continued to work on hot spots.

Fire investigators said the fire was started by improperly discarded smoking materials and caused $375,000 worth of damage.

Firefighters evacuated both the building where the fire started and two buildings next door because of how close they are to each other. Capital Metro rolled in buses for about 35 evacuated people to have an air-conditioned place to stay until they figured out their next moves. The American Red Cross of Central Texas has workers on scene to help those evacuated with immediate needs. No one was injured.

The fire burned two units in the complex, one second-floor apartment and one third-floor apartment. Still, no one is being allowed back into that building because of smoke and water damage and the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning. Neighbors in the adjacent buildings were allowed to return to their apartments.

The burned complex is just a few blocks north of the University of Texas campus and typically rents to UT students. KXAN spoke with two senior students who are roommates and now have two days to find a new place to live. Red Cross is working with apartment locators to get people settled into new homes — all as school for UT students is set to begin on Wednesday.

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