HOUSTON - Authorities with state and federal agencies have started investigating what caused Friday's deadly fire at a southwest Houston hotel.
Officials said four firefighters died in the line of duty battling the five-alarm fire at the Southwest Inn located in the 6800 block of the Southwest Freeway near Hornwood.
Authorities said the fire started around noon Friday in the hotel's sports bar.
Firefighters who had been inside the burned out building described it as a "war zone with tangled construction steel."
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was called in to help with the investigation. ATF agents, along with arson investigators and officials from the State Fire Marshal's Office started their investigation Saturday morning.
The four fallen firefighters have been identified as:
- Captain EMT Matthew Renaud, 35
- Engineer Operator EMT Robert Bebee, 41
- Firefighter EMT Robert Garner, 29
- Probationary Firefighter Anne Sullivan, 24
Captain EMT Matthew Renaud of Engine 51: He began his career with the Houston Fire Department in October of 2001 and in addition to Fire Station 51, has served out of stations 39, 83, 73, 37, 60 and 35. He was a recent recipient of the Valor award for rescuing a woman from an apartment fire in southwest Houston.
Engineer Operator EMT Robert Bebee of Station 51: He began his career with the Houston Fire Department in August of 2001 and in addition to Fire Station 51, has served out of Stations 37, 40, 10 and 48
Firefighter EMT Robert Garner of Station 68: He began his career with the Houston Fire Department in October of 2010 and has served out of Fire Station 68 since.
Probationary Firefighter Anne Sullivan of Station 68: She graduated from Houston Fire Department Academy this past April and was assigned to Fire Station 68.
"This was the worst day in the history of the Houston Fire Department with the most lives lost," said Mayor Annise Parker during a news conference Friday afternoon.
The Houston Fire Department has never seen four firefighters pass away from the same incident in the history of the department. In 1929, three firefighters passed away after their Engine was broadsided by a train.
Officials said 14 other firefighters were also injured and are being treated at three Houston hospitals. One firefighter is listed in critical condition and 12 others are stable.
A firefighter told Local 2 Friday evening that the fire was at first manageable, but quickly grew out of control when the fire shot through the attic and weakened the roof. They said the four firefighters were inside and died after what was described as a "catastrophic roof collapse."
Firefighters who were off work on Friday volunteered to come in and relieved firefighters who had been on scene all day. They made sure the fire did not start again and made sure that no one entered the area.
Gov. Rick Perry shared a message for the Houston firefighters via Twitter.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Houston firefighters and their families," tweeted @GovernorPerry.
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