HOUSTON – Exactly 10 years ago to date, four Houston firefighters were killed in a massive fire at a motel in southwest Houston.
Back on May 31, 2013, firefighters were called to the five-alarm blaze at the Southwest Inn along the Southwest Freeway.
The fire captain at the time, Bill Dowling, believed three people were still trapped inside during the fire, prompting a rescue attempt.
During the rescue operation, firefighters Robert Bebee, Matthew Renaud, Anne Sullivan, and Robert Garner were all killed.
Dowling was seriously injured in the collapse. His legs were amputated, and he was left unable to communicate after suffering serious brain damage. He died in 2017.
Thirteen others were injured in the blaze.
KPRC 2 meteorologist and anchor Khambrel Marshall recalled the moments he stumbled upon the horrific scene.
Marshall said he and Photojournalist Wendel Johnson were on their way back to the KPRC 2 station when he noticed the smoke billowing across the Southwest Freeway.
“Once we got closer, we saw it,” he wrote. “The Southwest Inn Sports Bar was on fire. We made a quick u-turn at Bellaire and were the first media on the scene by about 10 minutes or more.”
Marshall says he began taking pictures of the men and women suited up to go inside and fight the blaze, noting that any one of those firefighters in the photos may have become victims amongst the flames just moments later.
An investigation revealed that the fire started in an attic about three hours before firefighters were called, and the department’s radio system became overloaded when rescue teams were trying to locate the missing firefighters.
Investigators found a total of eight factors that contributed to the fire.