Odessa Apartment Fire Under Investigation

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - A blaze breaking out inside the walls of Sandpiper Apartments on Pueblo Street in Odessa just before 8 p.m. Wednesday night has left six units burned and 16 people without homes.

When NewsWest 9 arrived at the apartments on Thursday, fire victims were packing up most of their belongings that they could salvage, putting them in their cars and driving away.

The electrical fire happened where the wires are but what has fire investigators scratching their heads is how those wires caught fire.

"I don't know if that particular fire was from an overloaded electrical circuit or if there was some type of damage in there. If it shorted, we were not able to determine that," Odessa Fire Marshal, Detra White, said. "It's just that the only source of ignition that was found in that area was electrical."

Firefighters said it could have been a short circuit or maybe a nail or screw breaking a wire.

Another theory is that the wires were overloaded, which can happen if too many appliances are plugged in, in addition to the air conditioners already running during this scorching Summer.

Victims of the fire that NewsWest 9 spoke with wouldn't go on camera, but one invited us into his apartment where the fire destroyed one of his walls and the electrical wires inside.

When NewsWest 9 asked if it's possible air conditioners and appliances could have overloaded the wires, the resident said that was possible because the air conditioners were the first to fail before the fire broke out.

"Don't have the multiple T.V's, all the games, all the computers, electric space heaters, electric fans, all of these extras going at one time," White said. "That could put a strain on that system."

Odessa firefighters told NewsWest 9 that according to information from the Odessa Appraisal District, the apartments were originally built in 1973.

Firefighters said the many appliances that we leave running 24/7 could overload wiring that old. They said running too many at a time is a serious fire risk.

"If they are overloading electrical outlets, if they have numerous things plugged into one electrical outlet, that's a risk," White said. "We just cannot have that."

Overloading is not the confirmed cause of the fire. The fire is still being investigated.

The Red Cross is taking care of those victims now.

NewsWest 9 tried to talk to the apartment office as well, but it was closed an hour before it was due to close.

Firefighters advise that to avoid overloading, you can turn off and unplug all your appliances when you're not using them.

Other helpful tips are to identify the circuits in your breaker box, and make sure your appliances are running properly, as a malfunctioning appliance could cause an electrical surge.