Mercedes fire destroys cars at apartment complex

MERCEDES — Mercedes police are asking for help in finding out who started an overnight fire that destroyed 11 cars.

Police specifically are trying to identify a man spotted near the complex right before the fire started.

The man is seen in surveillance pictures taken from the Stars drive-in restaurant near the Mercedes Court Apartments at the intersection of Ohio and Sixth streets.

“We still haven’t located the man who was at the scene of the fire,” said Rolando Maldonado, Mercedes fire marshal.

Maldonado was finally on his way home yesterday afternoon after first arriving at the fire at around 2:30 a.m. yesterday morning, when the fire was called in.

“We accomplished a lot,” Maldonado said. “And we will continue working the case to find out what caused the fire.”

Maldonado said they processed the entire scene and interviewed all the residents.

No one was injured and the building is stable with what looks like minor outside damage. As of yesterday afternoon, the complex had no electricity.

Eleven cars and the entire parking structure for the newly renovated downtown apartment complex were all burned to a crisp.

Apartment resident Diego Ramirez, 19, sat outside the Mercedes Court Apartments yesterday at 8 a.m. with his girlfriend wrapped in American Red Cross blankets.

They had endured the night outside on the corner with their neighbors watching firefighters work to contain the blaze.

He and his neighbors had been evacuated by the Mercedes first responders about six hours earlier to begin fighting the inferno that once was the complex’s parking garage.

The displaced residents stood in shock looking at their burned vehicles lined up in a row, waiting for help and a chance to get back into their homes.

While they waited the American Red Cross was helping the residents get through the morning by offering them help and food.

Ramirez said he was never in danger, but the fire was sky-high. He and his girlfriend evacuated the building together after she woke him up saying the police were at the door.

“We saw the garage was on fire. It caught the electricity cables on fire and then cars exploded at the same time,” Ramirez said.” “All the cars are gone.”

He said he was hurt seeing his neighbors lose their cars they worked so hard to buy.

“They only had one car to get to work or get around town,” Ramirez said. “It hurts you when you care about the community.”

Ramirez said he did not own a car and has been living in the apartment complex for two months.

“Thankfully, the fire department was able to stop the fire.” Ramirez said. “Our apartment was not damaged at all.”

The Mercedes Fire Department said the fire had been contained around 5 a.m. and they had put out the rest of the hot spots by 7 a.m.

Maldonado said the fire department teamed up with the South Texas Arson Response Team to investigate the cause.