Fire engulfs upstairs apartment; 4 hospitalized

Lorena Rodriguez had just woken up early Friday morning when she heard a car honking outside her apartment and someone banging on her front door.

With the constant car honking and the banging on her door, Rodriguez met up with the woman who was trying to alert the residents that the building was on fire.

“She said the apartment was on fire. Another car parked behind her and the man in the car called 9-1-1,” she said.

Brownsville police officers arrived at the scene and went to the surrounding residents to evacuate the homes as a precaution, she said.

Rodriguez estimates it took the fire department about 10 minutes to arrive at the scene. She too called 9-1-1 to tell the operators the fire was rapidly growing. Brownsville Fire Chief Jarrett Sheldon said the first fire truck arrived at the scene eight minutes after it was dispatched.

When asked if the woman banging on the door would not have woken her up, would she have been injured, Rodriguez said, “I don’t know. That’s the question. I don’t know.”

Rodriguez has a gas stove inside her apartment.

It was sometime after 5:30 a.m. when the apartment building on the corner of Hawthorne Street and Old Military Highway caught on fire.

Sheldon said the fire department received a call shortly after 5:30 a.m. of an apartment on fire and that four people were inside.

When firefighters arrived at the scene the apartment’s second floor was fully engulfed in flames, Sheldon said.

The individuals inside the apartment managed to get out.

“Fortunately when we arrived they were all outside. We did take four to the hospital,” Sheldon said.

Three people were treated at the hospital for smoke inhalation and another was being treated for burns. All were in stable condition.

A total of five fire units and other vehicles were sent to the scene along with about 30 firefighters, the chief said.

Claudio Ortiz, a fire inspector/investigator with the city’s Fire Marshal’s office, said Friday afternoon that although the cause of the fire remains under investigation, it’s believed it started on the second floor balcony and moved inside the apartment.

Ortiz said while the second floor of the apartment building was completely destroyed, the first floor received water damage.

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