A fire at a Rowlett apartment complex has left multiple residents displaced and unable to return to reclaim their belongings for weeks.
The Rowlett Fire Department reported that it had responded to a fire at Building A at the Terra Lago Apartments on August 3. The fire caused a great deal of damage, and the building’s electricity, water, and fire systems were left inoperable.
The department worked with the Rowlett’s Office of Emergency Management and the American Red Cross to provide temporary lodging for those who were displaced, warning that some residences would be uninhabitable until further notice.
Terra Lago posted an update on August 6 that residents of the building farthest from the fire (Section Z-Z in the map above) could return to their units. However, residents who lived in the damaged building expressed frustration in not being able to return to their apartments even to retrieve their personal items.
On August 17, the City of Rowlett posted an update on Facebook explaining that the structural integrity of the other buildings had been compromised and they were not safe to enter.
“This morning, while continuing the investigation for the recent fire at the Terra Lago Apartments, the Rowlett Fire Marshal observed accelerated structural instability to the affected building,” said the city in the update.
“Based on this new information, the City of Rowlett Chief Building Official has posted the building as an ‘Unsafe Building’ per Section 109 of the International Property Maintenance Code (X-X and Y-Y in the building map image. Z-Z is not included in this order). This posting will prevent anyone from entering the building until a structural engineering report has been received identifying that the building is structurally sound.
“The Rowlett Fire Department and City Building Official will continue working with the property manager to ensure the safety of residents and those performing work at the property.”
A Terra Lago representative provided a statement to CBS Texas explaining that some residents were initially allowed to enter the damaged building with supervision for 15 minutes at a time to retrieve items. However, conditions have apparently since deteriorated, and the building is no longer safe for resident entry.
Tina Scott, another resident of the complex, told CBS that she was frustrated after being informed that she would not be able to return to her home and retrieve items of sentimental value and personal significance, including the belongings of her 11-year-old son who died from cancer.
“Everything that I have left on this earth is in the closet of that apartment and to be told you’ll never see these things again. You can’t get to them,” said Scott, according to CBS. “They’re right there, but we just can’t get to them. It’s so frustrating.”
The complex has hired professionals to enter the building, assess the condition of items in the units, and salvage them if possible at no charge to residents, CBS reported.