By Gaige Davila
A South Padre Island condominium building has been destroyed by an early Saturday morning fire.
A fire broke out at Gulfpoint Condominiums, on 200 Padre Boulevard next to the Sapphire Towers, at 7:36 a.m. on May 16, according to National Weather Service reports, after a lightning strike hit the building at around 6:35 a.m. Only one building of the condominium complex appears to have been affected by the fire. The fire started on the east side of the building, according to South Padre Island Fire Chief Jim Pigg.
Crowds of people congregated at the City of South Padre Island’s Multi-Modal Facility to watch the blaze. Persons staying at Gulfpoint, the Pearl and the Sapphire, almost all in sleepwear, were inside the building calling family members and friends.
“This morning we woke up to the fire alarm going off,” Adriana Davalos, who was staying in the now-destroyed Gulfpoint Condominium building since Tuesday, said. “We could smell (the smoke), and we were on the bottom floor, so we knew something was going on.”
She, her two young sons, her mother, who owns the condo they were staying in and her husband, along with her two dogs and two pet geckos, all made it out of the building safely.
Davalos said few people were staying in the condominium and believes everyone staying there were able to escape the building.
Lightning and heavy rain were present throughout the morning, up until 9:45 a.m. when the fire appeared to be extinguished.
Several fire departments responded to the fire, including Port Isabel, Laguna Vista, Los Fresnos, Rio Hondo, Harlingen, Brownsville, Weslaco, San Juan, Hidalgo, San Benito, and Pharr engines. Texas Department of Highway Safety (DPS) State Troopers blocked access to the condominiums entrance.
City of South Padre Island Public Information Officer Nikki Soto confirmed to the PRESS that no injuries have been reported from the blaze. One or two people living in the complex have been displaced by the fire, according to Soto.
Pigg said the fire will be under investigation, in regards to the fire’s cause. South Padre Island Mayor Patrick McNulty said the city will be asking the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to be the lead investigators of the fire, because the damage to the property was over $1 million.
“This particular structure has been a part of the Island for years and has hosted many visitors from around the world,” McNulty said during a press conference after the fire was contained. “A piece of Island history has been lost.”
McNulty said those displaced are being assisted by the city to get food and shelter.
Carlos Chacon, owner of Chacon Realty, who owns Gulfpoint Condominiums, said residents, owners and guests cannot return to the property until associated agencies say its “safe to return.”
Gulfpoint Condominiums were built in 1977.