Four firefighters die, 5 hurt battling Houston blaze
Doug Stanglin and Michael Winter, USA TODAY7:12 p.m. EDT May 31, 2013
Four Houston firefighters died and five others were injured Friday while battling a five-alarm blaze that started in an Indian restaurant and spread to an adjacent motel along a busy freeway, the mayor's office and fire chief said.
The fire is being investigated as a possible arson or explosion, and federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives are at the scene, a spokeswoman told the Houston Chronicle.
Fire Chief Terry Garrison said the four firefighters — three men and one woman — died after the burning roof of the Southwest Inn collapsed. Three bodies were found in the burned rubble and one died at a hospital, according to news reports.
Sources told KHOU-TV that others were not accounted for, but it was not yet clear if they were firefighters or possibly motel guests. KTRK-TV reported that all restaurant employees and patrons got out safely.
KTRK said it was the deadliest day in history for the Houston Fire Department. Firefighters saluted and several gathered around a flag-draped casket amid the burned remains of the motel.
Garrison did not immediately identify the dead, saying he would first meet with their families.
Two injured firefighters are hospitalized in critical condition, and three others suffered either chest pains or leg injuries, said Jessica Michan, a spokeswoman for Mayor Annise Parker. A fire captain told KHOU that one firefighter was in "very critical" condition.
The fire began at the Bhojan Restaurant about 12:09 p.m. CT and swept through the adjacent Southwest Inn, along the Southwest Freeway, U.S. 59. A karaoke bar also burned.
The five-alarm fire started in an Indian restaurant and quickly spread to the adjacent Southwest Inn, destroying the motel.(Photo: Cody Duty, Houston Chronicle/AP)
The wind-whipped blaze took more than three hours to extinguish.
KTRK-TV quoted a fire department spokesman as saying four firefighters had become lost while battling the blaze but were recovered. Three others, however, were not so lucky.
They were trapped when a roof collapsed, the firefighters union president told the Chronicle, citing field reports.
More than 100 firefighters were on the scene, and many were dehydrated. The temperature was 91 and humidity was high, making it feel like 95 degrees.
A restaurant worker alerted the front-desk clerk that a fire had erupted at the vegetarian Indian eatery. The pair then went door to door telling the 45 registered guests to flee. There was no immediate word whether all escaped or any were injured.
Sammy Sewell told the Chronicle that he walked out of his room, heard yelling and saw three screaming women running down a hallway as he turned a corner. He then heard three explosions.
"Next thing you know, it was 'boom!' It scared the crap out of me. I mean, it sounded like a cannon going off. That's how loud it was," said Sewell, 29, who had been living at the motel for six months."I could have sworn it picked this building up and put it back down."
Traffic along the freeway slowed to a crawl because of the black smoke billowing across the highway.
My heart goes out to the friends and families of the lost. Whenever I read something like this, I feel like I take those for granted who put themselves in danger every day for the greater good.
Answer by kmath at 3:41 PM on Jun. 1, 2013
Answer by QuinnMae at 6:02 PM on Jun. 1, 2013
I saw this on the news this morning. Very sad. I hope they get the full hero's funeral that they deserve.
Answer by mrsmom110 at 6:13 PM on Jun. 1, 2013
Answer by Ginger0104 at 7:09 PM on Jun. 1, 2013
Answer by morebee7 at 11:22 PM on Jun. 1, 2013