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'I was so scared' | Killeen family details evacuation from fire at Hilton Garden Inn

Families in Killeen had been staying at the Hilton Garden Inn as an escape from the winter storms before it went up in flames Friday night.

KILLEEN, Texas — James and Janet Culvers are in their 80s and 90s. They lost power on Monday night when the winter storm brought havoc into the entire state. 

They stayed at their church that night, but then took their belongings to the Hilton Garden Inn on Tuesday night with their son and daughter. Things were fine before they received a knock on their door right after 8:40 p.m. Friday evening. Janet dialed 9-1-1, unsure where the knocking was coming from. 

"She said 'What room number are you?' in and I said room number 303," Janet said of the operator. "She said 'You need to get out right away, there's a fire in your hotel.'"

The Culvers were on the third floor, just one level below the fourth floor and the roof, which were engulfed in fire.

"At first when I heard fire I thought we'd see some smoke and a few flames. I was astounded when I saw how tall that fireball was on that roof," Stephen Culver, Janet's son, said. 

They had to manage their way down three flights of stairs before finally arriving to an exit. That pathway was covered in black ice and they had trouble getting across before firefighters and other guests helped. 

"I was so scared of those stairs and I was holding onto him like I was never going to let go," Janet said. "[I was] holding on real tight; someone else was holding onto me."

It was an experience they will never forget. Because of frozen pipes, the sprinkler system didn't go off in the hotel. The Killeen Fire Department had to use water from Harker Heights, causing the city to lose more water, leading them to issue a water boil notice.

The family is now staying with a friend as their home is flooded due to snow and rain creeping in beneath their floor boards. The family said they are just happy to be alive and together, despite losing a few personal items. 

Killeen FD said that there were no major injuries at the scene and that no firefighters were injured. The cause of the fire has not been released.

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