CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — An apartment that once housed five years of memories for Eric Cantu, his wife and their eight children, is now only reminiscent of flames and billows of smoke.
Cantu said he and his family were able to escape the Aug. 12 duplex fire after one of his daughters came running from the hallway, screaming over the screech of fire alarms.
“When I heard the noise, I ran down the hallway," Cantu said. "I opened the door, and the room was engulfed — I couldn’t find my wife. I yelled out for her."
He said that exact moment was scary because the side of the bed belonging to his wife, who has multiple sclerosis, was covered in flames.
When he saw the room's bathroom door begin to open, Cantu said he ran to her.
“My wife was actually trapped in that room," he said. "I turned and I saw her and I grabbed her right away... I went and got her out and I got everybody out safely. That’s what mattered to me the most was get everybody out of the house."
Corpus Christi Fire Department Fire Marshal Randy Paige said the cause of the fire at 5053 Wingfoot Lane remains undetermined, pending any additional witness statements.
Cantu said there's not much to salvage because of mildew and smoke damage. And when he searched the area for electronics such as gaming consoles and televisions, Cantu said much of it was gone — presumably stolen.
"Lives matter more than any material stuff, so, I mean, it is what it is — it’s gonna happen," he said.
Cantu said, even though the fire was a week ago, it's still surreal for the family, but he's thankful he's able to be with them through it all.
"I didn’t think that this would ever happen — and it did," he said. "That’s why the mindset I’m in is making sure that my family’s taken care of 100 percent and that’s all that matters.”
Cantu said the life-changing event happened the day before five of his children, who are enrolled in CCISD, were set to begin remote learning.
The district has issued a device for each child, Cantu said.
The American Red Cross is helping the Cantu family with food and clothing expenses, but the family currently is paying out-of-pocket to stay at a motel. It hopes to move into a temporary home or apartment while the duplex is said to be renovated.
A website to help the family with expenses can be found here.