HOUSTON » A Houston construction worker whose harrowing escape from a burning building was caught on video said Wednesday that he knew he had to act quickly when he realized he was trapped on a fifth-floor balcony.
Curtis Reissig, 56, suffered minor burns to his face and hand in Tuesday’s fire, which destroyed the planned $50 million luxury apartment complex.
"I was trapped up there," he said. "The flames were getting closer and hotter. I knew I had to do something. So I swung down to the lower floor."
Reissig, a construction supervisor, declined to call his own actions heroic, saying the real heroes were the firefighters who rescued him and battled the blaze.
Reissig described how he hung from the fifth-floor balcony ledge, swung his body and landed on the edge of the balcony below. He then was able to jump onto a fire truck ladder and escape the flames.
Karen Jones, who works in a nearby office, captured the rescue on cellphone video. The footage shows Reissig being pulled away by the ladder just before an outer wall collapsed nearby.
Reissig said he went to the roof after he heard a small fire had broken out there. He planned to douse the flames with an extinguisher, but strong winds quickly spread them.
He said he retreated to the fifth floor but soon was overcome by smoke, forcing him to the balcony. He told a crowd of media Wednesday that he feared the thick smoke would suffocate him.
The cause of the fire was under investigation Wednesday, but witnesses said it was caused by workers who were welding something on the roof.