Two Severely Burned in Texas Apartment Explosion

June 6, 2013
Several explosions sparked the two-alarm fire in Odessa.

June 06--Fire investigators spent early Thursday looking into a two-alarm fire that left two unidentified people with serious burn injuries after a series of explosions rocked building 31 at High Plains Apartments late Wednesday.

Odessa Fire/Rescue Battalion Chief Kavin Tinney said at the scene of the complex, at 3727 Andrews Highway, that firefighters were called to the two-alarm fire at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. He said apartments 3106, 3107, and 3109 were all on fire, while a fourth apartment, whose number wasn't immediately available but was adjacent to the other three, started catching fire by the time firefighters arrived. All four apartments were part of building 31, a 12-unit building within the complex.

Tinney said two people, a man and a woman, were both taken to Medical Center Hospital with serious burns.

Tinney said that at the time of the fire, strong wind from the north impeded the response, but also kept the fire from engulfing the entire building as the units were on the south side of the building.

The interview with Tinney was cut off by a man who identified himself only as Rueben, claiming to be the property manager of High Plains Apartments and demanding all media to leave the complex, saying "this is private property."

Reached later by phone, Tinney said the Red Cross had not yet been contacted as of 1:30 a.m. since neither the High Plains management nor any of the residents of the damaged apartments immediately requested the organization's help. He said most of the uninjured residents of that building were at the manager's office after the fire.

Tinney would not say whether there was any suspicious or explosive materials in any of the apartments, only reiterating the fact that there were several reported explosions and that the fire was still being investigated by 2 a.m. Thursday.

By early Thursday, the front facade of the building appeared blown away, with the upper balcony collapsed as firefighters continued working around the building. Crowds of onlookers and residents of the nearby apartments braved the sandstorm to take pictures and spectate from outside the parking lot, which was closed off in crime scene tape as several fire trucks parked near the damaged building.

Michael Wilkerson, who lives in nearby building 32, said the explosions woke him up and immediately had him running out. Though he said he was "late" responding to it, he saw what looked to him like an injured woman being carried away by police.

"I couldn't decide if I wanted to put on my shoes or sandals," he said.

He said he then tried running to the building to try to help evacuating another apartment, but he backed off after hearing another explosion.

"It was just explosion after explosion after explosion," Wilkerson said.

Across the parking lot, Dennis Haynes, who lived in building 23, said he heard a loud boom and looked outside to see a woman screaming and fleeing the apartment before police rushed to help her. He said he was able to see that her legs were burned.

"I looked at that patio ... and everything was flamed up," Haynes said.

--Contact Doug Carman on twitter at @OAcopyDoug, on Facebook at OA Doug Carman, or call 432-333-7760.

Copyright 2013 - Odessa American, Texas

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