San Marcos fire that killed 5 was intentionally set, investigators say

$10,000 reward being offered

SAN MARCOS, Texas – Investigators said Friday they believe a fire that killed five people in San Marcos earlier this year was intentionally set and are offering a reward for information leading to an arrest.

Investigators said there were no sprinklers in building 500 of the Iconic Village Apartments when the July 20 blaze ripped through it.

A spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said 10 days of evidence collection and months of tests at the agency’s national laboratory revealed that the fire was purposefully set.

“This was not an accident,” he said.

Investigators said they will not disclose where or how the fire was started because the case is now a criminal investigation.

Sprinklers were not required when the building was constructed in 1970, officials said, and it has not undergone any major remodel that would require them to be installed. Investigators said they know that smoke alarms went off, but it’s not clear when they began to sound.

A $10,000 reward was offered for information that leads to an arrest of the person responsible.

"We do need the public's help," the ATF spokesman said.

David Ortiz, 21, a graduate of Pasadena Memorial High School, was among the victims of the fire.

David Ortiz
David Ortiz

“Please share this information with others. Someone knows something about what happened that night, and all of the families of all of the victims deserve some closure. If you know something, please don't be afraid to speak up,” said Gina Ortiz, the mother of David Ortiz.

David Ortiz graduated from Pasadena Memorial High School. He was living in the Iconic Village apartments when he died.

“We just cannot imagine how someone could do something like this on purpose. Why would someone do this? So many people's lives have been forever changed. David was a good student and a truly wonderful person. His death is a loss not only to our family but to the whole community. David always thought about others. He would make friends with people who didn't have friends and he would reach out to help anyone who needed something. He was a very compassionate person, and it is just terrible that he died in this way. Nothing will ever bring him back to us, but the person who did this needs to be brought to justice," Gina Ortiz said.

"Obviously, I think a lot of people are surprised that the conclusion is that it was intentionally set,” said Attorney Tony Buzbee.

Buzbee represents multiple victims injured in the fire. He said he thinks more should have been done to keep the residents safe.

“I think a lot of parents took note of this. What kind of apartment complex are my kids staying in? You know, the last thing we want to do is send our children off to school and be in an apartment that's unsafe," Buzbee said.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call 888-ATF-TIPS (283-8477).

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