Fire at South Austin apartment complex displaces more than 30 people

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Tuesday, a four-alarm fire burned through an apartment building in South Austin, displacing more than 30 people. 

The fire was reported around 2:30 in the afternoon at the Mission James apartment complex on Victory Drive. 

“It was pretty scary. I mean, people lost everything. You go to work, you come home, you have nothing. It's a pretty sad state of affairs,” said Peter Stern who lives in the building next to where the fire occurred.  

Flames were visible as firefighters pulled up to the apartment complex. 

“A heavy fire showing on both the second and third floors of the apartment building,” said Austin Fire Department Division Chief Palmer Buck.  

Firefighters tried to put the flames out from the inside of the building. Minutes later they called for a second alarm, then a third and fourth. Each alarm brought in additional crews, trucks and gear. Once the flames spread to the roof, firefighters were forced to pull back in case of a building collapse. 

“At that point we had almost 100 firefighters battling this blaze,” Buck said. 

Everyone inside of building "A" was evacuated. They still don't know when or if they will be able to return for their belongings. 

“All 24 units, we'll have to get everybody out of. While many of the units will have limited damage, maybe water and smoke, because the attic of the entire building has been compromised, the roof has been compromised, and we have some structural instability at one end of the building, we'll have to move everybody out,” said Buck.  

Neighbors watched from the parking lot as flames covered the building. 

“They weren't that tall, it was just like all over the roof, just like spreading quickly all over the roof,” said Gary Winthorpe who watched the fire from his balcony.  

No injuries have been reported, but some residents said their pets are missing. 

“Probably half of them lost a lot of their stuff and I don't know where they're going to be able to go, so it's probably going to be hard for them,” Winthorpe said.  

Investigators say the fire started because of a lit cigarette left on a wooden balcony. 

“The leading cause of fire in Austin every year is improperly discarded smoking materials and unattended cooking,” said Buck. 

The Red Cross worked with the Ann Richards school to provide temporary shelter for people left without a place to go.