January 4, 2014

Everman arson suspect still at large

About 10 displaced apartment residents remain at a shelter operated by the Red Cross.

Police still were looking Saturday night for a drifter suspected of starting a fire at an Everman apartment complex that destroyed 24 units and displaced dozens of families Thursday.

Of the 60 people initially sheltered by the Red Cross, about 10 remained Saturday night at Highland Hills Community Center in Fort Worth, said Red Cross spokeswoman Anita Foster.

“We worked hard with the apartment owner, who is phenomenal and came in from California to help the people,” Foster said. “We were able to get a few more families out of the shelter into apartments today.”

Foster expected all families to be placed and the shelter to be closed by noon Sunday.

Case workers and mental health professionals are helping the apartment dwellers cope with the physical and emotional difficulties resulting from their losses, Foster said.

An amazing outpouring of help from people in Everman and surrounding cities has supplied most of the physical needs, Foster said.

Everman school district employee Angela Johnson rallied volunteers who sorted through the donations, separated and bagged clothing into appropriate sizes for each displaced family, Foster said.

Most of the families picked up the bags by Saturday, along with cases of water, hygiene products and other supplies, Foster said.

The fire at Oakwood Terrace Apartments, 917 Coury Road, was reported about 5:30 a.m. Thursday.

One resident said that a man she described as a drifter had asked to sleep on her floor Thursday night, but she turned him away.

Right after that, the building caught fire and video from a surveillance camera shows the man running away, said Randy Sanders, Everman’s director of emergency services.

Investigators found charcoal starter and a cigarette lighter they believe were used to start the fire.

Each of six buildings at the complex comprises 24 units. One building was completely destroyed.

A man who jumped from a second-story apartment was hospitalized with knee injuries. A bedridden resident was taken to a hospital as a precaution. Another resident was treated for minor burns. — Terry Evans

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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