- Alisa Pierce
On Friday, July 20 I woke to the sound of my phone ringing. It was my boyfriend’s parents, telling me there had been a fire at his apartment complex. They didn’t know where he was.
At the time, what they were saying didn’t make sense to me. I was there the night before, I had seen the buildings standing tall just a few hours ago. How could there have been a fire?
I drove to 222 Ramsay St. in San Marcos, to find two buildings at the Iconic Village Apartments and one building at the nearby Vintage Pads Apartments completely destroyed. The fire, which had started around 4:30 a.m., was still raging as firefighters doused it in water.
People were searching for their loved ones, carrying scared pets and coming to terms with losing their belongings in the blaze. When I found my boyfriend, he was waiting with other survivors at a coffee shop down the street. Thankfully, he was safe, and his building was untouched by the flames. The fear I experienced was met with almost instant relief. Many, though, weren’t as lucky.
“After hearing screams, I went outside and saw that one of the big buildings was engulfed in flames,” Ezra Sanchez, a resident at Iconic Villages said. “I heard that people were jumping out of windows and throwing their pets out.”
In the days that followed the fire, San Marcos witnessed tragedy too grand for a small college town. Three buildings were destroyed, leaving more than 200 residents displaced and without necessities. Seven were injured and five residents were missing as first responders began searching for bodies. The situation appeared grim, but residents, as well as the entire San Marcos community, remained hopeful.
On Monday, it was confirmed that five bodies had been recovered from the scene.
The victims’ bodies were taken to the Travis County Medical Examiner’s office, where four were identified as Haley Frizzell, David Ortiz, Dru Estes, and James Miranda. Belinda Moats is still listed as missing.
Many have shared tributes to the victims on social media.
Dru I’m so so sorry... I love you man, so much and you knew that, since I always told you. I hope you rest easy. Just know I’m gonna be looking for signs you’re there. I’m so sorry this happened. You didn’t deserve this. pic.twitter.com/XIQSbu1Zz6— Clarissa🏳️🌈 (@madame_clarice) July 25, 2018
Haley has gone on to celebrate with Jesus. How lucky were we to have known such an incredible human being. Haley, we’ll be missing you.— Ally Arnold (@AllyArnold_) July 22, 2018
So far, officials have not determined what caused the fire and said the investigation could take months. A final search completed Tuesday found no additional victims. All residents who lived in the unaffected buildings are free to move back in, but many have broken their lease and are demanding their deposits back. The central building, where all of the deceased victims were found, is fenced off as officials continue to investigate day and night. It seems that life is moving on as normal, even as the town grieves.
I have wondered often this week if I ever unknowingly encountered the victims. Did I ever pass one of them while walking to my boyfriend’s apartment? Did we share the same study room or sit next to each other in the campus library? I have also thought about their families, who are feeling this loss the most. I can’t imagine that pain.
The feelings I have are mirrored in many San Marcos residents. In the wake of this tragedy, social media has become flooded with people reaching out to help.
If you’re in the San Marcos area and have clothes, toiletries etc to spare, please drop them off at Mochas and Java’s on N LBJ for the students who lived in the apartment that caught on fire this morning! Donate what you can and spread the word!— claudia. (@ClaudiaaaRaeee) July 20, 2018
🚨PLEASE READ🚨— tori lynn🏳️🌈 (@torituguita) July 24, 2018
My classmates and I are looking for donations for the 200 displaced families and college students that lost their homes to the apartment fire in San Marcos!! If you have any old clothes or shoes and any toiletries that you don't need need, please DM me! pic.twitter.com/z8H6y2ND3U
Places are no longer accepting clothes donations for the fire victims because they received so many already.— Kimberly Calderon (@Kimbeeeeee_) July 26, 2018
Wow. If that’s not a community.
I’m so proud to call San Marcos and Texas State my home.#txst
Private businesses such as the Blue Dahlia Bistro and Texas Music Park have contributed by planning silent auctions and benefit concerts. Organizations like the San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter, the Blanco River Regional Recovery Team and the Central Texas Food Bank have provided assistance, food and supplies for those affected.
Residents have also begun to challenge the apartment’s living conditions. According to the San Antonio Express-News, San Marcos Fire Marshall Kelly Kistner stated that Iconic Villages was built in the 1970s and was not required to install a sprinkler system. Although this complies with fire code regulations, many feel that the rule should be changed in order of preventing another tragedy.
I know we all wanna direct our anger, so remember that THE CITY CODE CAN BE AMENDED. @CityofSanMarcos can direct you on how to attend meetings and which city councilor to talk to. Let’s make real change. #codesmtx #IconicVillageFire https://t.co/4BTEMeWD0F— David Dennison (@daviddashcoby) July 24, 2018
The apartment complex that burned in San Marcos had the bare fucking minimum when it came to fire safety/security and that just shows that cities don’t give af and believe college kids deserve the bare minimum when living off campus— Delilah 🥀 (@laluna_nueva) July 23, 2018
A wreath and bouquets of flowers have been placed outside of the scene, serving as a tribute to the lives lost. May they rest in peace.
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