Brush fire destroys apartment building, damages others in Cedar Park; many evacuees can return home
A brush fire destroyed a Cedar Park apartment building Tuesday evening and damaged three others, leading to an evacuation of hundreds of homes and businesses as it approached the heavily populated area.
The Parmer Lane Fire was 60% contained and had burned about 50 acres as of Wednesday morning, the Texas A&M Forest Service said, lowering the estimate from the night before of 120 acres burned. Crews were able to stop the brush fire's advance overnight, Cedar Park Fire Chief James Mallinger said.
Mayor Jim Penniman-Morin told KUT that Building 10 at the Bexley at Silverado apartment complex at 12820 W. Parmer Lane — just south of the intersection with Whitestone Boulevard — was a total loss.
At a news conference Wednesday morning, Mallinger said there were 24 apartment units in Building 10. An evacuation center is open at The Hill Country Bible Church at 3351 Little Elm Trail in Cedar Park.
Buildings 11 and 12 at the Bexley were partially damaged, the fire chief said, and officials will be working with residents to determine when they can return home. Building 9, originally thought to be partially affected, had no damage. Many other evacuees in the area are able to return home immediately, he said.
Mallinger said people who don't live in the affected apartment complex should stay away from the area. Cedar Park residents will see smoke and firefighting aircraft throughout the day Wednesday, he said.
Two first responders have minor injuries, Mallinger said. One had a knee-related injury and the other got debris in their eye. No other injuries have been reported from the fire.
The fire chief said he does not know the cause of the fire at this time.
The city is asking residents to conserve water due to the effects of the brush fire. "No outdoor watering/irrigation for 48 hours," the city said in a Wednesday tweet.
'I realized my fire extinguisher was not gonna help'
Calls to 911 reporting a grass fire began coming in around 6:16 p.m. Tuesday. Around 10 p.m., the Texas A&M Forest Service, which has responded to more than 100 wildfires statewide over the last week, said crews were on the way to the Austin suburb.
“Someone was pounding on my door yelling, ‘Fire!’ … so I went and grabbed my fire extinguisher and I ran outside,” said Carrie Muraca, a resident of the Bexley apartments, who was sitting near caution tape at the entrance to the complex Tuesday. “I walked out and I just saw it all on fire, so I realized my fire extinguisher was not gonna help the situation.”
Muraca said she was able to get some personal items out and, most importantly, her three dogs.
She said she has been asking for updates, but officials haven't told her anything. She said she will stay there all night.
“I can’t bring myself to leave,” she said. “I need to know what’s gonna happen.”
This story has been updated. Scroll below for photos and video of the scene.