Four-Alarm Inferno Challenges Houston's Bravest

A four-alarm fire broke out at a vacant southwest Houston apartment complex Wednesday and burned for hours, KPRC Local 2 reported.

The fire started at the complex, formerly named Regency Arms, on San Felipe Street at Winrock Boulevard at about 1:15 p.m.

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About 125 firefighters battled the flames and brought the blaze under control late in the afternoon. They were able to stop the fire from spreading by pulling back part of the roof.

The black smoke could be seen for miles.

Officials said firefighters would be on the scene until the building stopped smoldering.

"The whole front of the building is almost totally involved in the upper floors," District Chief Tommy Dowdy said. "I would guess it's going to go to the ground."

Three buildings were destroyed.

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Firefighters had to use hydrants from surrounding neighborhoods to get extra water to fight the flames. They had to stretch hoses across the bayous to blast water from all different angles.

Fire officials said the wind hampered their efforts to extinguish the flames.

"It appears the fire started in a southern portion of the building," Dowdy said. "There's a lot more building to the north. The wind is out of the south, blowing the fire."

Area residents watched the fire spread. Officials recommended that neighbors keep their air conditioners off and stay indoors until the fire is out.

A Walgreens drug store across from the fire stopped its doors from automatically opening because of the amount of smoke.

Several streets in the immediate area were closed to traffic.

The complex was scheduled for demolition when the blaze broke out. Officials said paint in the apartments may have helped fuel the flames.

Area residents said the apartment complex had been closed for more than a year.

A METRO bus was sent to the scene to serve as a cooling area for firefighters.

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries. One required oxygen and another firefighter had an allergic reaction when he was stung by bees.

Arson investigators were called to the scene to try to determine the cause.

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