Apartment fire highlights Port Arthur Fire Department’s pre-planning initiative

Published 12:40 am Tuesday, April 4, 2023

The Port Arthur Fire Department will soon initiate a pre-planning program to assist first responders on scenes such as the one Friday night at Heatherbrook Apartments.

“When you’re talking about fires in apartments like that, they are a higher hazard because you’re talking about the potential for multiple impacts,” said Fire Chief Greg Benson. “That’s one of the things we’ve started talking about. We need to start doing preplanning just so that everybody understands the layouts; how you get there; where the fire hydrants are; if there’s a fire department connection, where is that at; where are the utilities, so on and so forth.”

While there were no such difficulties Friday at Heatherbrook Apartments, the fire inside one unit resulted in smoke damage to several adjacent units.

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Benson said the call was received at 8:30 p.m., and the first unit on scene — Engine Eight — arrived within five minutes.

“What they saw, when they pulled up, was thick, black smoke coming from the front door of the apartment,” Benson said. “The person that was inside the apartment was sitting on the sidewalk in front, so they had been able to remove themselves.”

While there was no update on the person’s condition as of Monday, Benson said the resident was awake and alert on scene prior to being taken to a nearby hospital.

A cause has yet to be determined, but there were a number of electrical appliances in the kitchen that could have initiated a fire, Benson said.

The fire chief credited quick response and coordinated work with EMS and the Port Arthur Police Department for the fire resulting in minimal damage.

“It was very close to Station Eight, so they got there and were able to initiate the fire attack, which was a very positive thing,” Benson said. “You’ve got two-story side-by-side, front and back (units). If the fire had burned longer, there could have been numerous apartments impacted significantly more than the one that had the fire and the ones that got smoke in them.”

That, he said, is one of the reasons behind the department’s coming work to preplan the various apartment complexes and other type facilities in the city.

“That data gets shared with everyone, so if you’re on a way to an incident, you can open your mobile data terminal and see the whole picture. It’s not just a drawing, it shows all types of access sites.”

Benson said the Red Cross is assisting all residents displaced because of the fire.