HOUSTON – One person is dead and two others were injured after a house fire early Saturday in northeast Houston, fire officials said.
According to the Houston Fire Department, it happened at 1 a.m. in a home in the 3200 block of Florida Street near the Eastex Freeway.
Responding fire crews were able to contain and control about 30 minutes after arriving on the scene, fire officials said.
Bill Zeller said he barely got out alive when a huge blaze erupted at his small apartment complex in the Fifth Ward.
“So when I went over here…I went over here and I doused it, like that and it made it worse,” he said, demonstrating how he tried to use a pot of water to put the blaze out.
“The heat was coming down so much that I couldn’t stand it no more,” Zeller said. “I had to crawl out of it, like military walk, from here all way out there ‘til I got to the cobblestones.”
His neighbor did not make it out. The landlord said the man in his 40’s had lived there two years.
“He never drank, smoked. He was really calm. He was trustworthy,” said the landlord’s son, Miguel Lopez.
The landlord said the victim was extremely hardworking and only came home to eat and sleep. She said he was a construction worker.
Another tenant managed to scramble out of his unit. He limped to the front of the property with badly burned feet.
Fingers started pointing and emotions spilled over as some accused Zeller of not trying hard enough to help his neighbors.
Zeller insists he did everything he could.
“I hollered, ‘Is there anybody that will call 911, 911?’ And then I tripped over the bike and hit my head on his door. He should have heard me,” Zeller said.
But Zeller’s neighbor apparently did not hear him. Zeller said the smoke was too thick to get into the apartment where the victim died.
He said an intruder set the fatal fire.
“Somebody woke me up going out the door ‘cause what gets me is, they all know I ain’t got a lock on my door,” Zeller said.
He also said he lost a pet cat he had adopted from the SPCA.
Houston homicide detectives and arson investigators are looking into exactly what, and possibly who, set the deadly fire.