Displaced Residents Wondering Where To Turn Next

More than 50 East Texans are homeless, and they aren't sure where to turn next.  KLTV 7 first told you about the Oxford Pointe Apartment fire Friday morning where 16 units went up in flames.  The apartment complex is located on Highway 31 East, just outside the Loop in Tyler. Residents on Saturday returned to find nothing but ash and rubble.

"This was our first weekend in it, and this is what happened," said displaced resident Joe Baker.  As residents returned Saturday, they were in disbelief at how fast fire swept through and destroyed everything.  Jason Gardner and Joe Baker had just finished moving in to their apartment.

"That was Jason's room and his TV was over there as well," said Baker.  "Just the whole thing's gone, God I can't even believe it."  Gardner showed us what was his new plasma TV, but something he still has that couldn't have been replaced is his grandpa's watch.  His roommate returned to find a treasure of his own.

"I actually dug and dug yesterday through all that, and I finally found it underneath the carpet, it was melted under the carpet," said Baker.  "Just got burned up, and I cleaned it off.  As long as I have this I know I'll be alright."  For Maria Leon and her children it's tight quarters now.  They're staying with family who live in the same complex.  With her nephew translating, she told us how she tried to save three children Friday who were trapped by a wall of flames.

"The baby was crying cause the fire just got up the stairs, and they couldn't pass and the big sister was just yelling saying 'help, help,'" said Leon's nephew Luis Hernandez.  Residents say another mother saved her baby by tossing the infant over the railing to someone below.  Fortunately, everyone got out ok, and the Smith County Red Cross is helping.

"If it wasn't for the Red Cross, we wouldn't have had anywhere to sleep last night," said Baker.

"Thanks to the Red Cross we got a hotel for three days, but after that we're looking for a new apartment," said Gardner.  The fire was all caused by children playing with a lighter, which caught a mattress on fire.  Their father was home, but once it sparked, he could not control it and called for help.

If you would like to help the victims contact the Smith County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Courtney Lane, Reporting.   clane@kltv.com