Excess Trash Blamed for Local Apartment Fire


Fire at an overflowing dumpster | Image by City of Denton Fire Department/Facebook

A Denton fire that consumed several residents’ homes may have been started by an overflowing dumpster at an adjacent complex, according to fire officials.

On Tuesday, August 9, a three-alarm fire at 816 Collins Street, and the necessary measures to extinguish it, caused heavy damage to a building containing four units.

“Red Cross has been called for 12 residents displaced from four apartments in this building,” the Denton Fire Department said in a Facebook post. “Three dogs and three cats [were] found, with two cats taken to [an] emergency vet for evaluation.”

Pavan Kandula and his roommates were among the residents who were relocated to hotels after their apartments were destroyed. Kandula arrived from India less than a year ago and has been studying for his master’s degree at UNT.

“I lost everything. I came out of the home with my bare hands, only with my phone,” Kandula said. “We don’t know what to do next.”

He and five other UNT master’s students who lost everything — all their “belongings, laptops, wallets, documents, clothes, and valuables” sought help recovering from their hopeless situation.

Kandula’s neighbor Paige Hammer said she believes that she knows where the fire started: a nearby dumpster filled with trash.

“It was about the size of a house worth of trash,” Hammer said.

On the other side of the fence, beside the buildings most affected by the fire, was a parking lot with three overflowing dumpsters. Much of that trash was consumed in the conflagration. The lot belongs to University Place, a UNT student housing complex.

As of late Thursday, the origin and cause of the fire were still under investigation by the Denton Fire Department. Fire Marshal David Becker said that when emergency responders arrived, the fire was blazing around the garbage and dumpsters in question.

Hammer had previously documented and complained about the trash in the University Place parking lot. The units in the complex are leased through Denton Student Apartments, whose leasing office declined to comment to NBC 5.

The City of Denton said a violation notification had been sent to the property owner about the trash pile on August 3; the property owner was given until August 13 to rectify the problem. The City said it had received complaints about University Place and notified its owner of a violation at least one other time.

A written notice of violation can only be sent after a resident has been in violation for seven days.

The City had checked the property daily since the August 3 violation notice. A community services officer said the property owner was complying and on track to have the debris cleared by August 13. The trash burned in the August 9 fire, just four days before the deadline.

Hammer said that while looking for a new place to live, she had to deal with a profound sense of loss. She was frustrated and said she felt sick because her neighbors’ carelessness could be why she lost her home.

“All of this could have been avoided if they would have just cleaned up the trash,” Hammer said.

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