By Rose L. Thayer
Killeen Daily Herald
Two fires broke out in Killeen on Sunday, one of which temporarily displaced residents of an apartment complex.
The other fire caused minor damage to the Hallmark Restaurant at 4402 E. Central Texas Expressway.
Three Live Oak Ridge Middle School students called 911 just before 5 p.m. after they saw smoke coming from the Willows Apartments, 1100 Willow Springs Road.
"We saw the fire, then started banging on doors," said Reggie Brewer, 12.
Firefighters extinguished the fire, which damaged the exterior of the apartment and caused smoke damage in seven others. Three of those were occupied, but residents weren't home, said Jerry D. Gardner, Killeen fire chief.
The Red Cross was notified and apartment management was on hand to help support the displaced residents. They were unable to return to their apartments until Oncor officials feel it is safe to turn on the electricity.
The fire started on the external stairwell and traveled along the ceiling into a downstairs apartment, but Gardner said the cause is still under investigation.
Based on past experience, he said, a cigarette could possibly be to blame.
"Residents need to be especially careful when putting out cigarettes," Gardner said.
Firefighters responded to a call at 1:29 p.m. at the Hallmark Restaurant.
"It looked like somebody possibly dropped a cigarette, and it rolled under the sheeting of the building and caught the insulation on fire," said KFD Lt. Robert Cunningham.
He said firefighters removed the sheeting to check for hot spots, but the damage was minimal and the restaurant was able to reopen.
Vickie Silva, Hallmark manager, said he was alerted to the fire when it smelled like someone was smoking a cigarette inside the restaurant.
"We couldn't find it inside, so we went outside," Silva said. That's when he noticed the grass was on fire. While he was putting that fire out with buckets of water, a customer alerted Silva that the wall by his table was smoking. The restaurant was evacuated.
There already are ashtrays outside the restaurant so Silva said he posted signs asking people to use them.
"People should be aware enough that when they flick cigarettes to make sure it's out. It's so dry the smallest spark can spark a fire," Silva said.
Contact Rose L. Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.
Post road closed
Fort Hood's West Range Road, from Elijah Road to Manning Mountain Road, was closed Sunday afternoon due to brush fires on training ranges. Post officials used Facebook to encourage on-post residents with asthma or respiratory issues to limit their time outdoors.