The fire tore through a two-story apartment complex on Hunters Chase Drive early Sunday morning. Austin firefighters believe it was caused by improperly discarded smoking material.
"It’s something we see all too often." said Division Chief Thayer Smith, who recommends smokers put cigarettes out in jars with water or metal containers specially made for extinguishing cigarettes.
Seven children and nine adults were displaced by the fire, including David and Andrea McNeil.
David McNeil was watching television when he noticed smoke. He tried to leave through his front door but the flames were too high. He ran to his balcony, explaining "my first concern was to be able to get some air."
Austin firefighters rescued McNeil from the second-story balcony and helped him climb to safety using a ladder. He was taken to St. David’s, treated for smoke inhalation and released.
The McNeils spent almost a week in a hotel before relocating to a new unit on the Hunters Chase Drive property.
"It’s been a nightmare…everything is going fine and then your life is turned upside down." said McNeil.
The McNeils lost most of their possessions in the fire. David McNeil said they have some furniture but need linens, food and pantry staples. Their relative started a GoFundMe to help them rebuild: