Thursday, June 4, 2009

Firefighters Battle Condo Fire in Galveston


A 5-alarm fire raged through a 164-unit condominium complex on Galveston Island, destroying more than one third of the building.

It happened Wednesday afternoon at the Maravilla Condominiums, located at Seawall Boulevard near Cove View Blvd.

It had been shut down for more than 8 months because of Hurricane Ike, and started to reopen two months ago. Just when residents were beginning to return the fire happened.

Jim Young had just driven his wife, Darlene, six hours from Irving, excited to show her all the work he had put into their vacation condo at the Maravilla on the Seawall.

Their hearts quickly dropped when they saw what's left of the beautiful oceanfront complex. It was still burning when they arrived.

"I had put furniture in so she could come enjoy it and she didn't even get to see it," said Jim Young.

"It's pretty sad," said Darlene Young. "We had the storm, our units had been broken into twice, and now this."

More than 100 firefighters struggled for more than four hours to contain the fire. They say they encountered too many problems.

"The wind did shift on us," said Galveston Fire Chief Michael Varela. "On the west side of the structure we had no area that we could place the apparatus and the main body of the fire were on the west side of the structure."

Water shortage and low water pressure were also a problem until they figured out how to pump from a nearby pond.

In the end, at least 60 of the newly renovated units were destroyed.

A firewall prevented the blaze from spreading further.

"Our homeowners and our board are fantastic," said Cathie Bach, HOA Secretary. "We'll be back better than ever. My heart goes out to the 60 folks who lost everything."

Among them, Jim and Darlene Young, who unfortunately didn't renew their homeowners insurance when it failed to pay after Ike.

"After five years, it didn't pay anything," said Jim. "Why would I want to renew it. Will it cover the fire? Probably not."

Investigators believe the fire ignited when workers were welding and cutting into the walls. They say the fire quickly spread through the walls, into the ceiling, then the attic.