Nearly two dozen families have lost their homes after a fast-moving fire destroyed apartments on Walnut Street in Dallas.
The Richland Trace Condos in the Lake Highlands neighborhood caught fire Wednesday night and forced residents out of 20 apartments in the complex. Fourteen units in the complex were destroyed by fire with six additional units severely damaged by smoke and water.
Firefighters ran into multiple challenges while trying to get the fire under control. First, crews said they couldn't get to the fire that was burning in the attic of the three-story building and the space between the floors. Flames surrounded crews that were working inside the building, forcing them to move outside and fight the fire from the exterior of the building.
As additional fire crews were called in, the floors of the building became unstable and, eventually, a portion of the building collapsed. Fire Chief Michael Meador said the building was so damaged it will have to be demolished. Residents will attempt to recover belongings today before crews knock down the building.
Dallas Fire Battalion Chief Chris Willeford tells NBC 5 that the preliminary investigation shows an electrical problem is likely to blame for the intense fire at the Richland Trace Condos in the Lake Highlands area.
Flames forced two dozen families from their homes Wednesday night. Now, the building isn’t safe for neighbors. The fire collapsed part of the roof and badly damaged the interior part of the building.
Firefighters have been trying to save some belongings for neighbors. Chief Willeford says 20 condos are destroyed.
“God is good, right? I’m here. It’s a blessing, right?” Yolanda Whitaker said. Condo renter Yolanda Whitaker is trying to stay positive, but fears she’ll be homeless for the holidays.
A Christmas tree stood in a window that was smashed out during the fire in her condo building. She smelled smoke, grabbed what she could and escaped. “I was thinking, it’s just smoke, so I grabbed one pair of pants and a shirt. That’s all.”
“Smoke started coming in quite bad, and I had to get out,” said fire victim James Brandon. Brandon knew there wouldn’t be much to come home to.
“I think it's a total loss. The way it's looking, because the glass that was breaking glass, I knew my unit would probably be a total loss.”
Crews had a tough, four hour firefight. The flames spread through the attic, the space between floors, the roof collapsed, and firefighters called for back-up twice. The damage has been done.
“We got out. We're safe, and we're okay, that's the most important thing,” said Brandon.
Firefighters want to keep it that way. Chief Willeford says the building needs to be demolished but will leave it up to the homeowners association when and how that will happen.
“We’re going to try to salvage what we can. At some point, it's probably going to be too risky to get something out,” said Chief Willeford.
“Just keep me in your prayers,” said Whitaker. “I'll take all your prayers.”
Chief Willeford says the preliminary investigation shows that the fire started in the wiring between the floors.
The Red Cross is helping the families.
NBC 5's Kendra Lyn contributed to this report.