Firefighter dies in four-alarm farm blaze

Captain Thomas Araguz was an 11-year veteran of the Wharton Volunteer Fire Department.

July 4, 2010 9:29:59 PM PDT
It was a major blow for a volunteer fire department. A captain is dead after he was trapped in a burning building. Captain Thomas Araguz, III, 30, of the Wharton Volunteer Fire Department was battling a huge fire at an egg farm when investigators say he just couldn't get out.

Dozens of firefighters were called to the scene Saturday night in Boling in Wharton County. Two other firefighters were also injured during the ordeal.

Firefighters were called to Maxim Production, Inc. on FM 442 just outside Boling around 9pm Saturday night. One of the buildings there was burning.

Crews from the Boling Volunteer Fire Department and Wharton Volunteer Fire Department responded, and eventually 31 different departments came out to help with fighting the fire and water-relay operations.

When firefighters went into the 25,000 to 30,000 square-foot building, they encountered heavy smoke and intense heat. Three firefighters tried to get back out of the building. Two were able to escape, but Captain Araguz was not.

Crews went back into the building to look for Araguz, but were driven back by intense heat and flames. The fire wasn't declared under control until around 6:30am.

Then, Sunday morning at around 7:20am, Captain Araguz was found dead inside the building.

Deputy State Fire Marshal Jay Evans says Araguz was a married father of two children, ages 7 and 9, and an 11-year veteran of the Wharton Volunteer Fire Department.

Aside from being a firefighter, Araguz had just finished his police academy training and worked as a paramedic. Funeral arrangements are pending.

"We regret that we lost a good man, a firefighter last night," said "Tuffy" Tweedle, the manager of the facility in Boling where the fire broke out. "We understand that two others were injured fighting the fire. We've got a lot of repair work ahead of us. Everything was totally destroyed, but all of those things can be replaced. We just send our thoughts and prayers out to the family of the fallen firefighter."

The other two firefighters who made it out suffered minor burns and smoke inhalation and were taken to a nearby hospital where they were treated and released.

An investigation involving the DPS and state fire marshal's office is underway. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. Firefighters had trouble dealing with the four alarm fire because the nearest fire hydrant is more than a mile away.


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