More than 20 Austinites displaced after cold-snap fires

- The Austin Fire Department spent the very cold first morning of 2018 responding to a fire at the Avesta Agave Falls apartments on East Anderson Lane.

"As our units arrived they had heavy smoke coming from one building...the attic and all the eaves," said Division Chief Palmer Buck.

Buck says the crew was able to put the flames out quickly but with temperatures in the 20's there were some...different experiences for firefighters.

"Sprayed some putting the fire out.  Had ice accumulate on a couple of floors, had some firefighters slip and go down from the ice they created, that's not normally something that we even worry about," Buck said.

They just had to adapt.

"We actually used some kitty litter absorbent to put down to help get a little bit of traction to help out," he said.

The Fire Department says the fire on Anderson Lane was an accident.  An HVAC malfunction.  12 people displaced, bringing the total number of Austinites affected by fires since this cold snap began to more than 20.

"Red Cross has been fantastic.  We displaced a total of 12 people just yesterday.  6 people in a fire down on Burleson and another 6 in a fire last night on Manor Road," Buck said.  

Buck says the Burleson Road fire was the result of a heating malfunction and the Manor Road fire -- they're still trying to figure that one out as of Monday afternoon.

"Because of intense hoarding conditions, they weren't able to maneuver inside.  Had to back out and fight the fire from the outside.  We actually had crews stay on that scene overnight," Buck said.  "We don't have this too often in Austin but when we do, we see a huge uptick in fires and a lot of that is from the same things that we talk about on a regular basis."

Space heaters need space.  Buck says don't leave them unattended and keep combustibles away from them.

If you're revving up the fireplace, make sure your chimney's in good shape.

"Make sure you don't overload that firebox.  Where you don't put in a bunch of extra wood, soft wood, Christmas tree, wrapping paper etc.," Buck said.

Don't use your oven or stove to heat your home for obvious reasons.  And even your HVAC could use a check-up.

"Most of the time our technicians are working on air conditioning but checking the heater unit as well every so often, making sure it's in good working condition. Make sure that if you have a gas heater that it's vented correctly so you don't have a carbon monoxide issue," Buck said.

And as always, AFD stresses having working smoke alarms.  

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