Heater failure caused duplex fire in southeast Austin, six displaced

2:50 p.m. update: Austin fire investigators have determined the cause of the duplex fire in southeast Austin to be accidental. The fire in the 2400 block of Burleson Road was casued by a failure of the heating system.

Gusts of wind spread the flames throughout the attic of the structure, and a lack of siding on the building due to building renovation exacerbated the spread of the fire. Damages are estimated at $150,000 to the duplex and $75,000 in content. The six residents of the home have been assisted by the Red Cross, officials said.

1:40 p.m. update: Fire investigators are trying to determine the cause of a duplex fire that burned quickly through the roof, displacing six residents in Southeast Austin in the 2400 block of Burleson Road.

Firefighters arrived at the home at 11:28 a.m. and found the attic engulfed in flames, officials said.

Two residents, a mother and her 14-year-old son, were inside when the fire started, but they were unaware of the smoke and fire emitting from the roof of the duplex until neighbors alerted them.

A man who was a roommate of the mother and son was determined to be safe, as were three men who shared the other half of the duplex, Austin Fire Department officials said. Firefighters also rescued two dogs on the first floor of the duplex, while residents of the duplex rescued two other dogs.

“These folks were very lucky – several were still asleep with no working smoke alarms,” Fire Division Chief Thayer Smith said. “They were alerted by neighbors across the street. So we were very fortunate that everyone was able to get out okay … that’s the thing we always talk about: Working smoke alarms really do save lives.”

Gusty winds fanned the flames in the attic of the duplex, Smith said, causing firefighters to go on the defensive. The duplex is a total loss. The American Red Cross will assist those displaced.

Norma Sanchez, identifying herself as a relative of the mother and son displaced in the fire, said she would be taking them to stay with her.

“It happened so fast,” Sanchez said. “They only had time to get two of their puppies, and the fire department got the other two out. She didn’t know smoke was coming out until the neighbor came and told her.”

Earlier: Firefighters tackled a blaze Sunday that shot flames through the roof of a two-story duplex in Southeast Austin, fire officials reported.

Crews engaged in a “defensive firefight” at the home in the 2400 block of Burleson Road, just south of East Oltorf Street.

Fire officials said some of the residents were asleep but all six occupants of the home have been accounted for and one dog was rescued.

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