HUMBLE, Texas - A 19-year-old man has been charged with arson after a massive fire at an Atascocita storage facility.
Just before 2:30 a.m. Sunday, the Atascocita Fire Department responded to a fire at Metro Mini Storage on Upper Lake Drive and Atasca Oaks Drive. At least 11 other agencies were called in to assist in the firefighting efforts.
People who live nearby said it sounded like an explosion.
"When we walked out to see what the heck was going on, because it sounded like transformers blowing up all over, smoke billowing, I thought a plane had come down or something," said Benjamin Flores who lives near the storage unit. "You didn't know because you could see the flames once you turned the corner. They were probably 100 feet in the air."
The flames and smoke were so heavy that three alarms had to be pulled.
"Because of the nature of the fire, immediately it went to a defensive posture, trying to put the fire out," said Atascocita Volunteer Fire Dept. spokesperson Anthony Turner. "It is a massive operation, there are firefighters pulling hoses long distances, partly because of the size of the structure, it is a really large structure."
According to the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office, deputy constables who initially responded to the scene, along with firefighters, spotted Benjamin James LaChappe, 19, hiding near trees. They said his initial statements just didn't add up, and after he was taken in for questioning, he eventually confessed to the crime, telling them he did it for "gratification."
LaChappe has been arrested and charged with arson.
Firefighters remained at the scene throughout the day and into the evening hours, even returning late at night after an area re-kindled. The total amount of damage is still unknown, but investigators said up to 100 customers may have lost property in the fire. In addition to several storage buildings, a covered area where boats, RV's, and vehicles were also destroyed.
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