Tenants starting over, questioning safety protocols after South Lubbock apartment fire

Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 10:58 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Debris and caution tape now surround the units 28 people called home at the Boulders at Lakeridge Apartments. Tuesday, renters were trying to get into the building to save what they could, and setting up traps to hopefully find their pets. Several displaced by the fire expressed concerns about the apartment’s safety after the Lubbock Fire Marshal’s Office tied maintenance crews to the blaze.

It took less than an hour for the fire to spread through the attic to Presley Carpenter’s apartment, 5 units down from where it started.

“My entire bedroom burned and the entire downstairs was flooded in about two or three feet of water,” she said.

The sophomore at Texas Tech moved into the apartments a month ago, with brand new furniture, electronics, TVs, and appliances. She has friends who have lived in the apartments before, who warned her of issues with maintenance.

“They had let me know of some maintenance issues that they’d had before. I’ve heard a few things that didn’t seem positive. My friends lived here and it seemed nice and it’s cheap rent, so I guess I just should’ve listened, you know,” Carpenter said.

After hearing the fire was tied back to maintenance workers, she’s questioning their safety on the job.

“They were using a solder to repair the AC unit, and they left to go get supplies. And they left the solder on, unattended, which burned straight through the wood of the chimney. The chimney is also wood so it went straight up, and it connects to the attic. So, it went straight for all the fiberglass and insulation and it just couldn’t be controlled from there, so it went through everyone’s roof. So the whole roof of this building is completely nonexistent for everybody,” she said.

Steven and Sara Fernandez have lived at the complex for 2 years, but are now moving because of water damage from the fire.

“And I know that maintenance, it’s just a lot of patchwork, has been since we got here. It’s unacceptable and it took this to make more people aware of it,” Sara said.

Carpenter only has liability insurance, so she says it won’t cover expenses to get into a new apartment or replace her things. It could be months before she sees the payout. Even then, it won’t bring back the belongings that meant the most to her.

“This is a tragedy for everybody involved, like mementos and valuables that can never be replaced,” Carpenter said.

She hopes it serves as a warning for apartment owners to examine their designs and hiring practices.

“We just need to watch who we employ. Employ people who would take care of your family. Like, these are other people’s family whose lives depend on the kind of work you do. Like the electric work, the water work, you know, things that can actually cause disasters like this, kill people, hurt people, and we need to employ people that are mindful of that,” she said.

In these tenant’s time of need, Lubbockites are stepping in to help. Danielle Gilbert’s mom was one of the people displaced by the fire. She says this fire hit close to home, so she and her managers decided to help those without a home. She’s a leasing consultant at the District West Apartments, off of 19th and Loop 289. The apartment complex is offering to waive all application and administration fees and deposits, and is offering to pay the first month’s rent for these victims. The office is closed to the public Wednesday, but if those displaced are interested in moving there, they can go to the office starting Wednesday at 10 a.m. If renters have questions, they can email districtleasing@amboproperties.com or call 806-793-0400.