Owner of burning Austin home found in ditch

Mesa Drive house fire (Alicia Inns/KXAN)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A neighbor found a woman in a ditch along a Northwest Austin road, following a fire that broke out at the woman’s home early Friday morning. Officials say the woman was taken to the hospital in serious condition, suffering from hypothermia. The woman lives at a home in Northwest Austin that was “fully engulfed” in flames when firefighter arrived early Friday morning. She lives there with her two children, who fire officials believe are out of town.

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Neighbor Steve Shelton called to report the fire at 6200 Mesa Drive just before 3:30 a.m.

“I just happened to open my eyes a little bit and saw a golden cast of light on my bedroom wall,” said Shelton. “Then I heard sort of a ‘poof’ sound — a pop.”

That’s the point he saw the flames, hustled his family into their car, and called 911.

After Battalion Chief Palmer Buck said heavy fire forced firefighters into “defensive” mode — meaning they could only attack the fire from the outside — fire crews finally managed to make it in shortly before 6 a.m. Fire crews now believe that no one was home at the time of the fire. A mom and her two kids, a 10-year-old and a teenager, live there, but they are all believed to be out and safe.

The blaze gutted the home, causing about $575,000 in damage. Firefighters evacuated two neighboring homes as a precaution — and to get a better vantage point for the home that burned.

“The flames on this fire were impressive — gutted up the middle of this house with high flames,” said Shelton. “I thought about running in there, but I knew better than that. I empathize deeply with them, especially after my family was in good condition.”

About 30 firefighters and eight fire trucks responded to the blaze. A stretch of Mesa Drive was also blocked off to allow room for fire crews to operate.

“I’d like to say I was more in control,” said Shelton. “I think I did the right things at the right times. There’s a rush of excitement, fear. But once my family was taken care of, there was the mayhem of ‘What do I need to secure that’s important?’ because this is likely to destroy my home.”

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