San Marcos emergency personnel responded to a house fire that erupted at 421 Lindsey St. the morning of Feb. 22 and continue to investigate what led to the incident.
First responders say everyone in the house is safe and has been accounted for “as far as we know”. The house, known as Sinai, is associated with Saint Paul’s Outreach (SPO), a nation-wide Catholic organization. Other homes around the same residential area are also associated with SPO.
Thomas Hammen, a resident of the home, says due to the recent winter storm, dehumidifiers were plugged in throughout the bottom portion of the home to assist with flood damages caused by a broken pipe.
The morning of Feb. 22, Hammen says, the house was engulfed in smoke and one of the bottom bedrooms was on fire.
"Pretty much everything in the house was on fire in five minutes," Hammen says. "But everyone got outside safe which is great but most of the guys lost pretty much everything."
A GoFundMe has been organized to assist victims of the house fire who have lost items such as laptops, phones and clothing.
Jesús Penaloza lives next door to the home and was a resident there last year. He says he woke up to someone banging on his door and was told to put on his shoes. When looking out the window, he says he saw the house next door on fire.
He says the home was typically used to host the ministry's "men's night" where 40-50 men visited the home each week. The homes are also used for morning prayers along with household dinners on Tuesday and Thursday nights which allow residents to gain a sense of family and brotherhood, Penaloza says.
Other members of Saint Paul's Outreach, who reside at the "women's house" known as "The Ark" a couple of houses over from Sinai, immediately left their homes to check on those directly impacted by the fire when they got word.
"Last week [during the winter storm] was really hard for a lot of us; we depended on the guys [in the two other houses] for water, for electricity, for power," says Madeline Flores, a sophomore at Texas State. "We don't know what's coming our way. We don't know what trials are coming our way. But we are [a community] of people that can be strong and be together and support each other and love one another."
As first responders continued their efforts, Saint Paul's Outreach members moved to a space outside The Ark to pray for healing and the first responders actively working to help them, as well as to sing a traditional Catholic hymn.
"Praise God we have one man's house still standing," Penaloza says. "So we're just gonna still work out of that one and do our best. I think the good spirts are because we just know that we got it in God's hands, that's the reason for our joy."
The University Star will provide updates as more information becomes available.