NW Austin apartment fire leaves dozens displaced on Christmas day

(PHOTO: CBS Austin)

AUSTIN, TEXAS-- Multiple units battled a fire at a northwest Austin apartment complex Christmas day.

The Austin Fire Department said crews were initially called to the 9800 block of Copper Creek Drive around 9:30 a.m.

AFD and the Williamson County Department says the fire upgraded to a two alarm fire around 10:00 a.m. Monday.

In a tweet, AFD stated Building 9 at the apartment complex was heavily involved.

The fire was contained to building 9 according to AFD, but dozens of people are displaced from the building where 12 out of 24 units were damaged.

One of those families displaced is the couple Joe Montalbano and Paige Giraldo. They just moved to Austin from New Jersey a week ago.

“Literally just got here,” Montalbano said.

Montalbano said he saw his dog get concerned for whatever reason. So he went outside and saw smoke from above.

“The paint was starting the bubble because the fire was inside the pillar,” Montalbano said.

So he woke up Giraldo, they gathered their two dogs and got out.

“That was the first thing we did,” Giraldo said.

“Yeah honestly they came before any human life which is terrible to say,” Montalbano said.

Montalbano also knocked on other people’s doors to warn his neighbors. Fortunately everybody, including pets, did get out of the apartments safely.

“I’m just glad we were still here, because if we weren’t here it would’ve been in flames before anyone noticed,” Montalbano said.

Montalbano said he’s actually glad the fire started on Christmas. That’s because they were actually home instead of at work.

“It would’ve been a lot worse,” Giraldo said.

The Red Cross says it is making sure all displaced families have a place to go, food, clothing, replacement prescriptions and comfort items.

This fire isn’t the first during the holidays at this apartment complex. On December 22, 2012 another fire broke out in a different building.

“I was there and matter of fact there’s a new building right behind you,” Jollyville fire chief John kirafofe, said.

That building he pointed to was a newly built building after the fire.

Kiracofe said that fire was worse than this year’s. That’s because they had to contend with high winds in the last fire.

“The same thing could’ve happened here today had we had the wind conditions that we had five years ago,” Kiracofe said.

Kiracofe said they're investigating what caused this fire. As for the 2012 fire he said improperly disposed of smoking materials was the cause.

Some residents living in the complex were there for both fires. They said it’s crazy this happened again.

“Five years ago, almost on the dot,” resident Kane Northrup said.

Northrup’s apartment was damaged in this year’s fire. He wasn’t living in the complex back in 2012, but had a friend who did. He came over the day after that fire.

He says this fire is just really bad luck.

“This is horrible way to start Christmas for some people,” Northrup said.

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