Firefighters battling a southwest Houston motel fire last year that triggered a deadly roof collapse did not completely inspect the building exterior before entering and failed to check the heat of the advancing fire, criticisms outlined in a long-awaited and exhaustive report released by the Texas Fire Marshal’s office, reports the Houston Chronicle
The state investigation cited eight shortcomings in how the Houston Fire Department fought the fire in a restaurant at the Southwest Inn, where the roof caved in 15 minutes after firefighters arrived, killing four of them.
A least four of the issues cited by State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy, a former chief of HFD, had not been raised in two internal reports compiled by HFD into the May 31, 2013 fire.
The report comes just one month after HFD officials told city leaders the fire likely had been smoldering for three hours. Employees at the Bhojan Vegetarian Restaurant at the motel reported smelling smoke about 9 a.m., but found no sign of a fire. When flames erupted just after noon, they called 911.
At a news conference on Friday afternoon, Houston Fire Chief Terry Garrison laid the blame on those in the restaurant for not calling the fire department earlier.
“When you have a devastating event, you’re looking for somebody to blame,” he said. “What system can I blame, was it the radios, the engines, the firefighters? There is nothing to blame. The blame was that fire started at 9 in the morning and burned, and we weren’t aware of it.”
The report is located at http://www.tdi.texas.gov/reports/fire/documents/fmloddhouston2013.pdf.
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