AUSTIN (KXAN)—As you approached a home in east Austin Tuesday morning, you could smell charred rubble and smoke. You saw a family salvaging what they could.
Henry Tiul, his wife and two children were asleep when they awoke to flames engulfing their backyard. He said they just tried to stay warm and save money by using a space heater.
“We’ve got kids,” Tiul said. “I’m very worried about them every time when this situation comes, like this winter.”
The fire started in their backyard off Carwill Drive. According to the Austin Fire Department, the flames even killed some chickens in their coop.
“The only thing that came to my mind, just tell my family get out of the house,” Tiul said.
Firefighters said things were kept too close to the space heater, which accidentally started the fire.
Tiul said he thought they were being careful.
“We never know if the heater will cause a problem or anything else,” Tiul said, “so it’s important to check around the house what you’ve got.”
On Tuesday morning, Tiul’s family, neighbors and church members helped him wring out his children’s clothes drenched by water used to put out flames. They also picked out the charred rubble from items.
Tiul’s church, Iglesia Vida Nueva of Austin, said it’s taking donations and raising money to help the family get back on their feet. You can contact them if you’d like to help.
“Do you think that you guys are going to be okay after this?,” reporter Jala Washington asked Tiul.
“Not sure,” Tiul said, “All things I’ll leave in the hands of God. Looking around myself — I can’t —we shouldn’t be like this. Like I said, just be careful.”
What happened to the Tiul family’s is a real concern. It was one of two space-heater fires that Austin firefighters put out Tuesday.
As temperatures maintain at freezing or below, power lines are likely to freeze. That could lead to more widespread outages in Central Texas.