Close to 200 Houston firefighters responded to the fire at the Southwest Inn on the Southwest Freeway near Bellaire Boulevard on Friday. Four did not come out alive.
HFD spokesman Ruy Lozano says of the 15 firefighters who were taken to area hospitals after the structure collapsed, one remains in critical condition and two are stable.
The HFD Arson Bureau, Houston police homicide division, Texas Rangers, the ATF and the state Fire Marshal’s Office are collaborating in the investigation. As of now, Lozano will not speculate on the cause of the fire or where it started.
HFD spokesman Ruy Lozano
“I can perceive this taking months before we get a clear, formal account of what happened, cause, and they’re even going to try to recreate where everybody was during this horrible tragedy.”
What’s clear is that most of the fire occurred in the restaurant Bhojan, which is part of the Southwest Inn.
The entire structure is being demolished today.
Lozano says firefighters went inside because they assumed that people were still in the building.
“As a matter of protocol when you have a commercial structure during normal business hours, which this was, and it has reason to indicate that people are inside that allows and indicates the need to go inside to do a primary search to ensure that everyone is out.”
Anyone with information on the possible cause of the fire is asked to call the arson bureau at 713-247-8900.
Lozano says a team of mental health professionals is helping the families of the fallen firefighters as well as members of the Houston Fire Department cope with the tragedy.
“The fire station traditionally is a very happy place. It’s a place where men and women show up to go to work because they’re proud and happy to do what they do, and right now it is quiet, it’s solemn. The tensions are high, emotions are high, and we’re just trying to get through this by leaning on each other.”
A memorial service for the fallen firefighters has been scheduled for Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Reliant Stadium. Between 30,000 and 40,000 people are expected to attend.
“We’ve had support come from all over the state and country. We’ve had firefighters from all over the state willing to cover stations while their brothers and sisters attend the memorial ceremony.”
The incident was the deadliest ever for the Houston Fire Department, the third-largest in the nation. According to Fire Chief Terry Garrison, it responds to nearly 850 calls daily.