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One Killed In North Austin House Fire
One person was killed during a house fire in North Austin early Thursday morning. It happened on the 13100 block of Kellies Farms Lane around 2:45 a.m.
“I heard this loud boom, it shook the whole house,” recalls Grant Giles, who lives across the street from the house. "There are embers flying around, you see people just screaming."
And as the fire burned his neighbors’ home, "You could feel it before you even got all the way across the street," said Giles, of the flames.
Giles watched high winds push the fire toward the house next door.
"We just woke up to people yelling next door, and we walked out on the balcony and saw just flames next door,” said Chad Cormack, who lives in that house next door with his wife and two young kids. “Just grabbed the kids and ran outside."
As neighbors watered lawns and knocked on doors, the fire spread to Cormack’s garage and fence.
"We tried to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher,” said Giles. “They (firefighters) told us it was too hot, we had to step back."
Heat and a second floor collapse put the 60 firefighters immediately into defensive mode, unable to reach a person trapped inside.
"This is the 7th fire fatality in Austin in 2012," said Palmer Buck, Battalion Chief for the Austin Fire Department.
Battalion Chief Buck says the previous six fatalities were in homes that did not have working smoke detectors.
"A working smoke detector is going to dramatically increase your chances for survival," said Buck, who added that a smoke detector saved the lives of the three other men inside the burning home.
The fire caused $170,000 in damage to the home, along with $40,000 in lost property. It also caused $10,000 in heat damage to an adjacent home and $40,000 in damage to Chad Cormack’s home next door, but Cormack says despite his material loss, he’s grateful for what he has left.
"I'm just glad we got out safely,” said Cormack. “It's really what mattered."
Battalion Chief Buck also recommends having an escape plan and a place to meet so you know immediately if there’s anybody still inside the house during a fire.
Austin Police Department’s homicide unit will lead the joint investigation with Austin Fire Department. They’ll wait to determine the cause of the fire until they can first rule a cause of death. Officials have not confirmed an identity on the body.
By Adam Bennett