Wharton firefighter's widow speaks out

WHARTON COUNTY, TX Captain Thomas Araguz's wife is speaking publicly for the first time since his death, and she says her husband is her hero.

Federal investigators are now working this case. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was called in by the fire department here to assist, as is common practice when smaller departments don't have the resources to investigate a large-scale blaze.

The flag at the Wharton Fire Department remains at half-staff in honor of a firefighter now considered a hero.

Thomas Araguz's widow Nikki finds solace today in a charm her husband once gave her. It reads, "Fear not for I am with you."

"Thomas had a big heart and he loved so hard," said Nikki Araguz.

Araguz, 30, died Saturday night fighting a fire at the Maxim Egg Farm near Boling. He was battling the blaze from inside with two other firefighters, the smoke so becoming so thick, the heat so intense, they had to retreat.

The others made it out, but Araguz never did. The 11-year veteran firefighter's body wasn't located until the following morning.

"He cared about everybody, he was funny, fun, beautiful, was the strongest man I knew," said Nikki.

Investigators can't say yet what started the inferno.

On Monday, they're just trying to get the roof off the building so they can go in and find the fire's point of origin. Then they'll determine whether or not it was accidental.

"We don't enter into a fire scene with any preconceived notions. We want to let this fire tell us where and how it started," said Robert Elder with the ATF.

It took more than 150 firefighters from 31 nearby fire companies to get the blaze under control at the 25,000 square foot facility.

Araguz's widow hopes he is remembered for the loving husband and father, the dedicated firefighter he was and always will be.

"I wish there was something I could say to bring him back. I am just devastated," Nikki said.

The two firefighters who were hurt were treated at the hospital and are now recovering.

Thomas Araguz, will be honored with a two-day memorial service, beginning at 7 pm, Friday. Rosary and family visitation will take place at the Wharton Civic Center, 1924 North Fulton in Wharton, Texas, 77488.

On Saturday at noon, there will be an honorary tribute and official firefighters service for Araguz, also held at the Wharton Civic Center at 1924 North Fulton in Wharton. Burial to follow the service.

The Wharton Fire Department has set up an education fund for his two little boys, Trevor and Tyler's. Contributions to the children's fund can be made to:

Wharton Fire Department
Capt. Araguz Memorial
319 N. Fulton St
Wharton, Texas 77488

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