Fire officials say Oak Creek blaze was intentional - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Fire officials say Oak Creek blaze was intentional; suspect in custody

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By Azian Bermea / KCBD By Azian Bermea / KCBD
Michael George Bippus, 19 (Source: Lubbock County Detention Center) Michael George Bippus, 19 (Source: Lubbock County Detention Center)
By Azian Bermea / KCBD By Azian Bermea / KCBD
Source: Lubbock Fire Dept. Source: Lubbock Fire Dept.
Viewer Gary Evans sent us this photo titled "Hope Rises Through the Ashes" Viewer Gary Evans sent us this photo titled "Hope Rises Through the Ashes"
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -

Lubbock fire officials have announced that the blaze that began Monday afternoon at the Oak Creek Apartments was intentionally set and a suspect is in custody.

Michael George Bippus, 19, was arrested for arson of a habitation, a first-degree felony with a potential sentence ranging from 5 to 99 years.

The Lubbock Fire Department has extinguished the fire that broke out at Oak Creek Apartments at located at 5801 22nd Street, around 3 p.m. Monday. However, the LFD says cleanup operations will continue for some time.

LFD issued this statement around 4:15 p.m.: "At this time we know of one possible injury to a nearby resident for smoke inhalation/respiratory problems. That patient was not transported to the hospital. There are no other reports of injuries."

One woman spoke about being relocated to a Lubbock apartment after surviving Hurricane Katrina: "I couldn't even go back in there and get anything. I was able to have my pictures of my family from Katrina, and now I don't even have pictures. And I'm going through this again."

People living here say they are shocked and devastated by the fire that has virtually destroyed one entire building.

One resident said the flames soared some 15 feet above the roof.

Gina Darnell, Regional Manager with Scarlet Matador Realty and overseer of the Oak Creek Apartments issued this statement on Monday night:

"Since we bought the property a little over a year ago, we have spent close to 1.5 million in improvements. We have an onsite manager, as well as, a full staff of 9 employees. Management, maintenance and myself were on the property today to assist local Fire Department and Red Cross.

"What has happened is very upsetting for the residents; the priority at this time is to continue to assist the Red Cross in placing these residents."

Others say they have lost everything and don't even know where they will be tonight.

The Red Cross has opened a shelter for displaced residents at Bacon Heights Baptist Church located at 54th and Slide. The shelter is in their Family Life Center located behind the church.

The Red Cross says as of 9 p.m. they have "helped 68 people displaced by the Oak Creek fire find a safe place to stay tonight and provided them with money to buy clothes."

There were 10 people remaining at the shelter as of midnight Monday and the Red Cross says they will keep the shelter open "until residents have time to regroup."

If you'd like to help, the Red Cross is accepting financial donations. Contact the Chapter office at (806) 765-8534, mail or drop off support at 2201 19th Street or make a donation online at www.redcross.org.

You can donate gently used clothing or material items at the Salvation Army Family Center at 1614 Avenue J.

This apartment complex actually has a history of fire damage.

In January of 2011, more than 40 people were left homeless after a 2-alarm fire ripped through the complex, back when it was still known as the Twin Oaks Apartments.

At least 30 apartments were damaged in that fire. Investigators say the cause of the 2011 fire was accidental. They say residents in a second-story apartment used a stove to keep warm and accidentally left it on.

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