Massive fire destroys condominium complex on South Padre Island in Texas, US
A massive fire completely destroyed a condominium complex on South Padre Island in the US state of Texas on Saturday morning, 16 May 2020. Flames were seen shooting from the roof of the building. Fire fighters from South Padre Island, Port Isabel, Los Fresnos and Brownsville were called to the scene to assist in the fire response. They were working to extinguish the flames by spraying water from a nearby parking garage. The massive fire left many stranded during a severe thunderstorm and is now under investigation. The Golfpoint Condominiums engulfed in flames at approximately 7h00am. Fire officials said the fire started on the east side of the condos, quickly spreading across the entire building. Initial reports from the National Weather Service said lightning could have caused the fire but others said it seemed to be an electrical issue. From Port Isabel to Pharr, 15 fire departments stepped up to help their brothers and sisters on South Padre Island. With a smaller department, South Padre Island fire and ocean rescue were in the fire fight of their careers Saturday morning. Thanks to a mutual aid agreement with several other agencies, fire fighters managed to save lives and limit the structure damage to just one building.
South Padre Fire Chief Jim Pigg explained the importance of mutual aid agreements, “That’s what a fire department is. That’s from the beginning of time, since fire departments were volunteer departments. So the importance of them is you couldn’t function without it. If we didn’t have those, you wouldn’t have anybody that automatically responded.”
Chief Pigg said this was a response his team had never seen before. “15 years with the department, I’ve never seen that happen. We’ve called for Brownsville before and for Harlingon before but to have those agencies respond the way they did was something else. Cameron County Emergency Management did an outstanding job of getting in touch with me when I was on scene. Finding out what resources I needed, what trucks I needed, what type of apparatus.”
From the Red Cross to assist two displaced, to pizza from local joints, mutual aid went further than just the valley’s fire crews. “We have an awesome area that we live in. An amazing island, amazing residents. Even the tourists that were here were lending a hand. We had fire fighters that were staying in some of the surrounding hotels come up and ask what they could do to help”.
The response even included video from social media. “Watching that, it kind of gave a heads-up on where the start of the fire was. We’re still looking into what the cause was but watching those videos shows us where the origin was, how it spread, what its rate of travel was, so yeah, they definitely help,” said Chief Pigg.
The response was one for the books and, thanks to mutual aid, it wasn’t worse. “We just can’t thank everybody enough for the support they gave us and how hard they worked. They got in there and gave our guys a spell. Let them rotate shifts in and out, to where everybody didn’t get too exhausted, which most everybody did anyway. It was one heck of a fire.”
Chief Pigg added that the investigation into the cause is ongoing and with teamwork like Saturday’s, the joint investigation between his department, Cameron County and state officials will help close the case.
The 1977 building was deemed a total loss with damages estimating around $7 million and no injuries were reported but fire fighters were treated on scene for dehydration. The condo had 95 units but only about four were occupied at the time of the fire. South Padre officials said the investigation to determine the cause could take weeks if not months.
Source: KSAT, Valley Central and KRGV