MEC&F Expert Engineers : Fire caused by unattended candle at the 8-story high rise Greenhill Apartments in Midland, Texas forces almost 200 people to evacuate

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Fire caused by unattended candle at the 8-story high rise Greenhill Apartments in Midland, Texas forces almost 200 people to evacuate

A fire caused by an unattended candle left the residents of Greenhill Apartments displaced Monday night.

No one was seriously hurt in the fire, which was reported about 6:30 p.m. at the building, 1010 Eastlawn Drive.

Resident Gil Hansen, who has lived in his apartment on the eighth floor for 13 years, said he left a candle burning when he visited another apartment.

"Everything in that apartment is gone, flames were shooting out the window," he said as he watched the Midland Fire Department work. He said he heard the smoke alarm sounding and ran to the apartment, where he tried to extinguish the flames. His efforts failed when the fire extinguisher emptied without putting out the blaze.

Midland Fire Chief Chris Coughlin said the building sustained smoke throughout, and the American Red Cross and Arc of Midland were on scene to help the 174 residents who reside in the building.

The parking lot of Midland High School, across Eastlawn Drive from the apartment complex, was being used as a staging area early during the response, Midland Police Sgt. Chris Komara said. Residents and family members, as well as others watching firefighters work, filled the lot.
"Everyone is cooperating," Komara said.

Among those still on the scene well after the flames were extinguished was Rebecca Lobodzinski, an Arc of Midland social worker. She was making sure residents had access to their prescription medications as well as food and a place to stay for the night.

Numerous residents said the smoke alarms sounded in the building and told them to remain in place. As much as an hour later, firefighters and Midland Police were in the building escorting residents out.

Additional firefighters from Larkin Township and the Auburn-Williams fire departments were called to the scene to assist, as well as a Midland County Sheriff's Office deputy.


"The alarm went off. I opened the door to check and found there was smoke.”

Nearly 200 people were forced to evacuate an eight story high rise after a fire erupted in a top floor apartment.

Now all wondering when they will be able to go back home.

It's a story we've been following closely since the news broke Monday night.

It took four fire departments to put the fire out, with crews escorting tenants out and others rescuing people from balconies.

The apartment fire started around 7 Monday night at the Green Hill Apartments in Midland on East Lawn Drive.

Disaster relief crews and several fire departments worked quickly to escort everyone out with only what they could carry.

They say it started in a man's room when he wasn't home, setting off sprinklers and alarms throughout the building.

"Everyone was evacuated and that was a pretty lengthy procedure. People sheltered in place. Fortunately, we could come in and remove them as time allowed. Frankly, it went pretty well,” Chief Chris Coughlin, Midland Fire Department said.

Nobody in the apartment was hurt, and three firefighters were checked out for smoke inhalation.

The cause has been narrowed down to two possibilities, smoking or a burning candle.

Around 170 different units were evacuated, leaving more than 190 people looking for food and shelter.

Now, several organizations are stepping up to help.

Everyone who lived inside has spent the day getting what the need from inside, and many are bringing it back to the high school right across the street.

That’s where the Red Cross has set up shelter.

"I figured, as usual, somebody just burned something so I closed the door and I waited,” Tasha White said.

Tasha White, along with everyone else who call the apartments home remembers the alarms, the smoke and a knock at her door.

"The fireman knocked on the door and said we had to get out, and he basically rushed me. The only thing that I was allowed to get was my keys,” White said.

She even left her cat, Buddha behind.

"I had already fed him and he's good at the hiding away and making sure he doesn't get into any issues,” White said.

Heidi Nelson was on the seventh floor, just feet from the fire above.

"There was smoke and water coming all over outside my door, so I slammed my door, went to the balcony and the fire department was coming up to get me at the same time,” Nelson said.

"We soon realized that the residents wouldn't be getting back in for the evening,” Kristy Gallagher said.

The Red Cross sprung into action, setting up a shelter across the street at Midland High School.

"We reached out to one of our shelter contracts, Midland High, and we were able to set up shelter within an hour or so. We had about 29 residents stay the night last night we are just continuing sheltering today."

Tenants could return to their apartment with an escort on Tuesday to grab essentials or in Tasha’s case her beloved cat.

Now it's a waiting game.

"My hopes is I can get a box at least for pain in the butt, here,” White said.

Disaster relief crews tell us it could be more than a week before people can go back to their homes.