The Houston Fire Department today (Monday) released its final report into the deadliest incident in the department’s history. The May, 2013 fire at the Southwest Inn Motel killed Firefighters Anne Sullivan and Robert Garner, Engineer Operator Robert Bebee, and Senior Captain Matthew Renaud. The fire also injured Captain William Dowling, Firefighters Robert Yarbrough, Foster Santos, and Tony Livesay.
The report was leaked to the news media in Houston on Labor Day. It provides more than 200 recommendations for safety improvements.
Firefighters had nearly contained a small fire at the Southwest Inn last year when the roof collapsed, killing four and sending their colleagues into a chaotic dash to rescue them.
A draft copy of a Houston Fire Department report reveals that some firefighters abandoned procedures, creating confusion about who was in charge, cluttering radio channels with non-essential transmissions and sometimes delaying assistance from new units who could not drive close to the scene nor knew where to park.
Significant technical challenges with the new radio system, implemented less than a year earlier, fueled the disorganization as strong winds whipped the fire into a much larger blaze.
Problems with radio communications are among one of the findings of a 193 page report by a committee within the Houston Fire Department that investigated a fatal motel fire that killed four firefighters.
In May 2013, four firefighters lost their lives while battling a massive blaze at the Southwest Inn Motel. It was the deadliest accident in the history of the Houston Fire Department.
The cause of the fire is still unknown, but the report did determine it started in the attic space above the kitchen. Investigators say there is no evidence that it was deliberately set. The report states that because of the high amount or radio traffic, firefighters were not getting through or were hearing partial messages.