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Willow Creek Apartment Fire

Posted by DallasCop2566 
Willow Creek Apartment Fire
May 23, 2016 08:53AM
On March 21, 1983 I was assigned to the Freeway Patrol and being the rookie, I got stuck working North Central Expressway. I chased a northbound vehicle that was exceeding the speed limit and cutting in an out of traffic. The pursuit began around Hall Street north of downtown. I finally was able to stop the violator on the east shoulder of North Central Expressway directly above Walnut Hill Lane. It was around 8:30 a.m. and traffic was heavy and the shoulder very narrow.

I finally was able to get out of my vehicle and walked up to the violator, informed him why I stopped him and asked if there was an emergency, the reason he was driving so fast. He just said he was late for an appointment. I told him to remain in his vehicle and I returned to my vehicle and began writing a citation. I look up and the violator is running towards my vehicle in the right lane of the freeway. He is yelling and pointing towards the west.

I got out and moved him to the right side of my vehicle where we wouldn't get run over and asked what are you yelling about. He points to the west again and yells, the place is on fire. I looked to the west and he was correct.

I returned to my vehicle and informed the dispatcher of the fire which appeared to be within the Walnut Creek Apartment Complex located on the west side of Central Expressway on Walnut Hill Lane. The dispatcher told me the fire department had just been notified and they were en route.

A few minutes later we heard sirens and during the few minutes the fire had spread to the entire wing involved. I released the violator and reported to the Fire Commander to assist in Traffic Control. As I stood beside the Battalion Chief I heard him request a Second Alarm, a minute later a Third Alarm. The wind was blowing strong and the fire was spreading at an amazing pace, mostly created by the wood shingled roofs. A few minutes later I heard the Chief request a Fourth Alarm, then seconds later a Fifth Alarm.

If I recall correctly several firefighters received injuries and were transported by ambulances.

I was relieved by several motorcycle officers. I returned to patrolling the freeway, but drove by about 2:00 p.m. and the entire complex was destroyed and they were still putting out small fires.

I remember the same complex had a multi-alarm fire in 1980 which occurred in the early morning hours.

I believe this is the most severe damage fire I remember. I remember the Dallas Morning News reported it as, "a record damage fire".
Re: Willow Creek Apartment Fire
May 27, 2016 08:43PM
I remember this well. I worked for an accounting firm in downtown and one of our accountants had an apartment there. I had been fielding his calls the previous week from the management of the apartments because he was behind in his rent. That morning, I heard about the fire and could, in fact, see the smoke from my window. When he called in to check for messages (he was out of town on a audit) I asked if he was still living at the apartments. he said yes and I told him he might need to get someone to check on his unit as he might no longer be a resident there. He lost everything.
Re: Willow Creek Apartment Fire
May 28, 2016 01:15AM
As I look back I guess in a way it was fortunate that the fire began at a time many residents were at work or up preparing for work, it sure could have been more serious.

I know several nurses that worked at Presbyterian Hospital lived there and lost everything.

I believe apartment builders learned that wood shingle roofs are not a good idea as I remember the fire investigators blamed the rapid spread of the fire on substantial winds and wood shingle roofs.

I remember a home fire in North Dallas that burned as a result of a bottle rocket landing on the wood shingle roof and rapidly burning the entire roof before it was extinguished.
Re: Willow Creek Apartment Fire
May 28, 2016 07:58AM
Don't most jurisdictions now prohibit wood shingle roofs? I know insurance companies don't like them, and typically charge a higher premium for properties with them. I also know my aunt, ever mindful of the "looks" of everything, was quite upset when she was told that she would have to have her roof replaced with a fire rated roof. It had wind damage. She worked and worked to find a way around the requirement, eventually getting only the back side, that did not show from the front and where the damage was most severe, replaced, and getting a few shingles replaced on the front side. Since it was a repair then, not a replacement, she was allowed to stay with the wood shingles. But her insurance premium went way up. That was not in Dallas, but it was in Texas.

Where I live now, NE Washington, I recently participated in an exercise with local fire personnel with the Department of Natural Resources regarding home fire hazard in forested settings. I learned that a wood shingle roof is among the conditions that will get a property "red tagged" by the fire districts. In their parlance, that means that during a wildfire, they will simply tie a red ribbon across the approach to the property, and not attempt to protect it (after assisting with evacuation). Certain vegetation conditions will earn the same "distinction," among them mats of juniper around the property foundations.

This is all a big deal here, as fire is the single most prevalent disaster that strikes this region, and some years (like 2015) hundreds of people lose their houses and millions of acres burn.

Dave McNeely
Re: Willow Creek Apartment Fire
May 28, 2016 09:51AM
As I understand it, the 2015 fire was likely arson-induced. Jim
Re: Willow Creek Apartment Fire
May 28, 2016 03:26PM
jgoodman Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> As I understand it, the 2015 fire was likely
> arson-induced. Jim

Jim, there were hundreds of 2015 wildfires here. Most were caused by such things as branches rubbing on electrical lines, careless fire use during recreation or property maintenance, dry lightening strikes (some during dust storms of all things), .......... . The big fire at Twisp, WA that killed two USFS fire fighters has been determined probably to have been arson. Most of them were not. The Northwest was drier than at any time in recorded history last summer and fall. Snow pack was gone from the eastern Washington, northern Idaho mountains well before April 1st that year. Typically, it is still accumulating on that date, and lasts well into June, some years mid-July.

Dave McNeely
Re: Willow Creek Apartment Fire
May 29, 2016 09:56AM
I very well could be misinformed. There are so many fires in the western USA. Jim
Re: Willow Creek Apartment Fire
May 29, 2016 06:36PM
DallasCop2566 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I remember a home fire in North Dallas that burned
> as a result of a bottle rocket landing on the wood
> shingle roof and rapidly burning the entire roof
> before it was extinguished.
*****************************************
Any chance you might remember the name of the street?
I lived on Ricks Circle and the house next door to me burned down.
The story was that teenagers were playing with fireworks in the attic.
Re: Willow Creek Apartment Fire
May 29, 2016 06:58PM
The fire I mentioned was on Joyce Way just east of Preston Road. The reason I remember it was I was an Accident Investigator then and Engine 27 (housed at Douglas Avenue and Northwest Highway) was involved in an accident at Preston Road and Northwest Highway responding to the fire. They continued to the fire, leaving the other involved party at the scene. I do remember it was just about sunset and it was HOT, July Fourth, not a good time to be fighting a fire.

I seem to remember the fire you mentioned, but Ricks Circle brought up a memory of an incident, very high profile, that occurred on Ricks Circle, a homicide maybe, any recall on your end?
Re: Willow Creek Apartment Fire
May 29, 2016 07:28PM
DallasCop2566 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> I seem to remember the fire you mentioned, but
> Ricks Circle brought up a memory of an incident,
> very high profile, that occurred on Ricks Circle,
> a homicide maybe, any recall on your end?
*************************************************
Yes, a homicide occurred directly across the street from my house and I was interviewed.
Re: Willow Creek Apartment Fire
May 29, 2016 10:03PM
My feeble old mind finally remembered a man was found shot in his mother's driveway and the initial investigation disclosed the suspect ran into the house. They had a full S.W.A.T. response as they feared the victim's mother and a care giver were also in the house and may being held hostage. They surrounded the house and after a period located the mother and care taker at another location. They entered the house to find the rear door open and the suspect gone.

I do not ever remember any newspaper or TV news reports after the initial incident as to anybody being arrested or even identified, do you recall?

This must have been around 1991 as I remember I was working a Freeway Speed Enforcement Grant and all the S.W.A.T. members were running Code 3 to the location, so I switched radio channels to find out what was going on.
Re: Willow Creek Apartment Fire
May 30, 2016 07:51AM
DallasCop2566 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> My feeble old mind finally remembered a man was
> found shot in his mother's driveway and the
> initial investigation disclosed the suspect ran
> into the house. They had a full S.W.A.T. response
> as they feared the victim's mother and a care
> giver were also in the house and may being held
> hostage. They surrounded the house and after a
> period located the mother and care taker at
> another location. They entered the house to find
> the rear door open and the suspect gone.
>
> I do not ever remember any newspaper or TV news
> reports after the initial incident as to anybody
> being arrested or even identified, do you recall?
>
> This must have been around 1991 as I remember I
> was working a Freeway Speed Enforcement Grant and
> all the S.W.A.T. members were running Code 3 to
> the location, so I switched radio channels to find
> out what was going on.
************************************
My very senior mind is trying to recall the particulars but am going to have to ask my son or daughter if they remember the incident.
It seems I remember that either an uncle shot his nephew or the nephew shot his uncle.
What I do remember was that I never heard about any charges filed.
Re: Willow Creek Apartment Fire
May 31, 2016 02:40PM
I seem to recall that the wood shingles were only a contributor to the Willow Creek fire. I believe I remember that official blame was placed upon the aluminum wiring, which had already been implicated in a previous fire there as well.
Re: Willow Creek Apartment Fire
June 01, 2016 09:33AM
I remember the 1983 Willow Creek fire. I was working in the area of LBJ and Audelia, and I can remember the huge column of black smoke rising from over there, then seeing the story on the TV news that night.
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