ATASCOCITA, Texas – A 19-year-old man was arrested Sunday in connection with a three-alarm fire at a northeast Harris County storage facility that cost potentially millions of dollars in damage.
Benjamin La Chapelle is in custody and is being processed by the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office. Fire officials said he confessed and stated he set the fire for gratification.
“We’re still trying to figure out why he targeted this place. Why here? What’s going on? We’re still working on all of that,” Lt. Dean Hensley, with the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office, said.
Firefighters responded the building fire at 2:25 a.m. in the 20500 block of West Lake Houston Parkway and found the Metro Mini Storage engulfed in flames, fire officials said. After firefighters arrived at the scene, they immediately pulled a second alarm.
The Eastex and Sheldon fire departments responded to the second alarm, while the Houston Fire Department responded after a third alarm was pulled.
As many 20 fire units showed up to help battle the blaze.
The building served as a large storage facility for cars, boats and RVs along with furniture and other items.
“We’re looking at 50 to 60 maybe even up to 100 vehicles and travel trailers once we get it all sorted out,” Hensley said.
Well into Sunday afternoon, firefighters continued to suppress the flames at the storage facility, as renters tried to peer over the fence to see what, if anything, was left of their belongings.
Joey Kovacik runs a mobile DG business, and stores his equipment, including two box trucks, at the facility. He said the fire cost him almost $100,000 in damages.
“A friend of ours sent me a text early this morning and said your storage is on fire, and I drive all the way over here, and I’m like...it can’t be. It can’t be,” Kovacik said.
Kovacik said that it is pretty upsetting to have someone do something like this.
“It kind of makes me upset somebody would do this. You have hard working people out there trying to make a living and then somebody goes in there and ruins your life basically,” Kovacik said.
Another property owner said the suspect probably ruined his own life as well.
“Terrible. It’s just terrible. There’s better things to do with your life rather than destroy other people’s property,” Darrell Van Buskirk, who owned a travel trailer stored at the facility, said.
Investigators continue to question that 19-year-old suspect. No word yet on when renters will be allowed inside to sort through their belongings.