Six years later, HFD remembers brave firefighters who died in Southwest Inn fire

By Bill Spencer - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - It has been called the worst day in Houston Fire Department history. On May 31, 2013, four brave firefighters died and six others were seriously injured after a raging fire broke out at the Southwest Inn along the Southwest Freeway.

Capt. Matthew Renaud, engine operator Robert Bebee, firefighter Robert Garner and firefighter Anne Sullivan were all killed after portions of the Southwest Inn roof caved in during the fire.

Capt. Bill Dowling, known as “Iron Bill,” died from medical complications related to the fire years later.

On Friday, members of the Houston Fire Department gathered at the Southwest Inn to lay flowers, to pray and to remember their fallen brothers and fallen sister.

“My memories of that day were getting a phone call and someone telling me that my husband had been involved in a fire, and my world just came crashing down on me,” said Jacki Dowling, Bill Dowling’s widow.

“We want to make sure that we are honoring the memory of those that really gave the ultimate on our behalf, in the service of the community and in the service of others,” said Chief Samuel Pena, with the Houston Fire Department.

Problems with the firefighters' radio communication devices have long been blamed for impairing the rescue efforts to save those firefighters.

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