Thirty people had to get out of a group home quickly Monday morning after a fire broke out.
Home operator Terrie Smith said the person charged with setting the fire at Hannah's Place had only been there a week. The home houses people who have mental illness and other disabilities.
"Most residents that move in, they don't like the rules, the structure, don't want to comply. There’s combativeness, so that's where a lot of the issues come in,” Smith said. “Not wanting to go to bed, have curfew, those kinds of issues."
Police say new resident Becca Gallardo is responsible for setting a fire at the home. She’s now charged with arson.
Gallardo shared a room with five other women. All of them were in the room around 6 a.m. when the fire started. A staff member saw smoke and flames and screamed for help.
Gallardo confessed when firefighters arrived.
"She said, 'Do I need to tell you what I did now or do we wait for this?'” Andy Reardon, an Austin Fire Department captain, said. “And that's when she admitted to using a lighter, setting some clothes and paper on fire in the bedroom, and the reason, she said, was because she was mad and didn't go into anymore detail on that."
The situation could have been worse. The fire alarm system was not working. Smith said, it's been out for two years due to a lack of funding.
"We weren’t able to have that in our budget to get that done,” Smith said. “If we could have gotten companies to donate or to help me with the support, I would have been glad to have it in place."
Fire officials cited Smith for failure to maintain an alarm system.
Until the home is cleaned up and brought up to code, no one can return.
"You're not allowed to have a system and decide not to use it," Reardon said.
Smith said until repairs are completed, she'll keep her clients together and move them to another home.
"That's life,” she said. “I just have to stay focused and move forward."
The Austin Fire Department said a working smoke alarm can double your chances of getting out of a fire alive.
If you don't have one in your home, the city has a free smoke alarm program.
Call their hotline at 512-974-0299.