COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Katherine Cerda and her fiance Mike are planning their wedding in October, excited to start a new chapter.
After Saturday night’s fire, the couple, residents of the Sundance apartments in College Station, suspect they’ve lost their clothes, furniture, and wedding materials. The two ate lunch parked outside their damaged apartment Monday afternoon.
"We went inside," Cerda said. "It’s mostly water damage. A lot of our stuff we did lose, and some items have smoke damage, so there's a soot smell throughout our items. We haven’t been inside since Sunday, and right now we can’t go in.”
A major fire at the apartments in damaged 14 units late Saturday night. Though no major injuries were reported, several people will have to begin rebuilding their lives. At this point, Cerda said her family are most grateful that they, their cats and their neighbors all survived.
"We put our cats in the room," she recalled, noting she hadn't been able to pick up the frightened animals before she and Mike needed to escape. "We didn’t know it was as bad as it was till we got outside. But one firefighter did find one of our cats, and then the other we found hours later.”
College Station fire chief Richard Mann said that this apartment fire was unique.
“Pretty interesting circumstances in this one, in that we got to the location in two minutes," he explained. "... But what was most significant was that this fire was so big in that two minutes. It was a combination of factors: the type of construction, but also the wind. We've had a lot of wind recently.”
Chief Mann said the fire spread through a commonly shared attic space in the building. Of the 14 apartments affected, approximately four were severely damaged.
Both the fire department’s C.A.R.T. Team and the American Red Cross have been providing immediate relief to residents. Cerda said that despite the loss of material possessions, she is especially relieved that her fiance and pets are unharmed, noting that the night in question was spent sobbing in horror for the unknown fate of her cats. Today, she, Mike, and the animals are living in a hotel nearby.
“We're just trying to focus and get everything back together in our lives," Cerda said. "... We’re just trying to deal with it, and it was pretty devastating.”
Fire marshals are still investigating the cause of the fire, though Mann said he is fairly certain it was initiated by a discarded smoking device.