(HOUSTON) — Four firefighters died and six were hospitalized after battling a five-alarm blaze that overtook a Houston motel on one of the city’s heavily traveled expressways Friday.
The fire apparently started at a sports bar in the southeastern part of Houston and quickly engulfed a neighboring motel, the Southwest Inn.
The thick black smoke was visible for miles and, as the fire spread, the building’s roof collapsed, ABC station KTRK reported.
“We can confirm for you, at this time, we have four fatalities,” said Janice Evans, a spokeswoman for the Houston Mayor’s Office. “Families are being currently notified … It’s a very sad day for the Houston Fire Department and the city of Houston, as a whole.”
Some of the survivors could be seen saluting, a traditional honor for a fallen comrade.
One of the firefighters killed was a female, and became the second woman to die in the line of duty as a Houston firefighter.
At least six firefighters were injured battling the fire and were taken to the hospital.
“Houston firefighters mourn the loss of our three brothers and our sister and will forever honor their sacrifices,” said Jeff Caynon, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association. “This tragedy underscores the inherent dangers of our profession. Please keep Houston firefighters in your thoughts and prayers.”
Caynon said the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association and the International Association of Fire Fighters were monitoring the conditions of the six injured firefighters and would be assisting them and their families.
More than 100 units responded to the fire and 155 firefighters were on scene in teams, KTRK reported. Firefighters were shuttling in and out of the fire, battling not only the intense heat and smoke but a wind that would not quit.
KTRK reported that the blaze burned out of control into the afternoon, several firefighters were overcome by dehydration from the intense heat and the blistering 95-degree temperature.
Late Friday afternoon, the fire was finally brought under control, according to KTRK. The cause was not known.
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Jackie Wattles and Amanda Barnett, CNN
Jon Ostrower and Rene Marsh, CNN
Michael Nedelman, CNN
Mariel Turner, Kacey Montoya & Nerissa Knight, KTLA