Others had to jump from second story windows to survive the fire at the Saint Nicholas Apartments.
“They came banging on my door,” said fire victim Rhene Stanley. “That’s all I heard were the police and fire departments banging on my door. That’s how they got everybody’s attention.”
Fire roared through the breezeway on one end of the complex trapping other renters in their apartments.
“I laid there a second and thought I was dreaming,” said Richard Gifford who escaped through a first floor window. “But sure enough, I wasn’t dreaming! We try to go out the front door and it was already engulfing the front door and we couldn’t get out of the apartment.”
Two women jumped from upstairs windows.
One of them thought her long-time boyfriend was right behind her. But police said he died apparently trying to save their three dogs. Downstairs, police rescued an older woman who physically was unable to escape through her window.
“The officers did forced entry into some of the apartments that were close by and they actually assisted one elderly female out of her apartment and got her to safety,” said Michael Mullinax with the Benbrook Police Department.
A dozen apartment units were damaged. Some residents reported their battery-powered smoke detectors did not go off. Firefighters said it’s a reminder of the need to check smoke alarm batteries periodically.
“It’s not so much that you want your smoke detector to work for you, but your smoke detector needs to work for everybody else inside the apartment unit,” said Chief Tommy Davis of the Benbrook Fire Department. “Your residence and your neighbors. You need to take care of your neighbors as well as yourself.”
The Tarrant County Fire Marshal’s office believes the fire started outside on the mezzanine, but does not know the cause yet.