A pile of crumpled metal is all that remains of the trailer Mario Javier Serrano and his family called home.
The house, which sat about 150 yards from Tyler Welders Supply and was separated from the business by a chain-linked fence, was among the property damaged by the explosions and fire that rocked the area Tuesday.
Serrano, 14, was home playing video games with a friend when he heard a series of very loud noises.
“I went outside and saw the fire and instantly felt the gas on my face, which made me realize we needed to get out of the house quickly,” Serrano said.
He did and though he and his friend survived with no injuries, his family’s home was a different story.
Official clean up is scheduled to begin Friday in the residential area along Montgomery Gardens, which sits off of U.S. Highway 271.
Shaw Environmental will send work crews to clean up debris in the neighborhood where 15-20 homes were affected by Tuesday’s incident, according to the Smith County Fire Marshal’s Office.
The office hand-delivered letters to residents in the immediate area to explain the cleanup effort.
The letter says cleanup crews will ask residents for permission to do any work on their property before starting. A vacuum truck will be used to remove the debris.
The Fire Marshal's Office is asking the residents to refrain from touching or removing any debris until workers are available to assist. The work should be completed by Sunday. Contact the Smith County Fire Marshal's Office at 903-566-6600 with questions.
Texas Department of Insurance spokesman Jerry Hagins said in general most homeowner’s insurance policies cover damages caused by explosions, though it depends on the policy’s language.
He said each homeowner who has insurance would need to file their own claim with their own insurance company.
However, he said, for those homeowners who lack insurance, they generally would have to pay for their own repairs or seek legal recourse through a lawsuit if they think another party is at fault.
The Department of Insurance has a toll-free consumer help line for people to call if they have questions or concerns.
The number is 800-252-3439 and is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Representatives are available to speak English or Spanish to callers.
Back on Montgomery Gardens, Maura Casas watered flowers in front of her house, which is on the same property as the destroyed trailer house where her son and his family lived.
Though Casas’ house was not damaged, pieces of exploded acetylene canisters lay on the property alongside the debris from the trailer house.
The Casas and Serrano families will continue to pick up the pieces. The night of the explosion, they stayed at a hotel because they were told the area was still dangerous for them to be there.
As of Thursday, Serrano and his mother were staying with a family member while his stepfather and younger stepbrother stayed with other family members.
“No one has told us anything, whether the damages will be paid for or who we are supposed to call for help,” Serrano’s stepfather Jose Antonio Ortiz said. “The fire department told us a report would be ready in two weeks.”
Though the family has no home, they know it could have been worse.
“We might have lost everything, but to the glory of God we are all okay and alive,” Ortiz said. “We are focusing on moving on and staying strong.”
City editor Emily Guevara contributed to this report.
HOW TO GET HELP
People affected by Tuesday’s explosions and fire at Tyler Welders Supply can reach out to the following agencies for assistance:
- Smith County Fire Marshal's Office, 903-566-6600
- The Texas Department of Insurance has a toll-free consumer help line for people to call if they have questions or concerns related to insurance coverage. The number is 800-252-3439 and is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Representatives are available to speak English or Spanish to callers.