Elderly man displaced after he says he accidentally burned down Third Ward home

HOUSTON – An elderly Houston man is looking for a new place to live after a fire he says he started to keep warm, burned his house down.

“I’m anemic, I can’t stand a lot of cold and last night was pretty chilly,” James Durham told KPRC 2.

The fire broke out around midnight Tuesday at a home on Palmer Street near Holman Street in Houston’s Third Ward.

Durham, 66, says there was no heat in the rooming house where he was staying so he started a fire in a pot on his porch to warm up.

“I went back inside to finish my dinner and after I ate I nodded off and the smoke and the crackling from the fire woke me up. I come out and I noticed that the porch was ablaze,” Durham said.

He says he tried to put the fire out with the little bit of water he had and a few cans of soda. He suffered minor burns on his hands as he tried to tamp down the flames.

The fire quickly spread from Durham’s little wooden house to the home next door.

The owner of that house, Catalina Noyola Lozano, said at the time of the fire she was out celebrating finally completing a year-and-a-half of renovations.

“He’s already been very nice to me,” Lozano said. “He’s been a good neighbor. But when he started telling what happened I did have to walk away because it pained me to hear that it wasn’t electrical. It was a fire that shouldn’t have been started,” she said.

Lozano’s home suffered mostly water and exterior damage.

“I did get lucky and I’m very fortunate. So thankful to the firefighters,” she said.

The American Red Cross of the Texas Gulf Coast told KPRC 2 they are working with Durham to find him long-term housing and replace some of what he’s lost.

“I’m alive, by the grace of God, by the grace of God,” he said.

Meanwhile, Houston firefighters are warning people to not have open flames on their porches and to be careful when using space heaters during this time of year.

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