HFD honors firefighters killed in department's deadliest fire

Tuesday, June 1, 2021
HFD honors firefighters killed in department's deadliest fire
Monday, May 31, marked eight years since a fire killed four Houston firefighters at a hotel. A 5th firefighter died from complications a few years later. ABC13's Steven Romo shows you how the fire department continues to keep their memory alive today.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Eight years ago on Monday, the Houston Fire Department endured its darkest day in history.

The Southwest Inn fire and building collapse eventually claimed the lives of five firefighters, and it was the single deadliest day for the Houston Fire Department.

Their fellow firefighters gather at the site each year to make sure the fallen lost that day in 2013 aren't forgotten. The anniversary this year happened to fall on Memorial Day.

Four firefighters died on the scene; Robert Bebee, Robert Garner, Mathew Renaud, and Anne Sullivan.

In March 2017, Captain Bill Dowling, who lost both of his legs in the fire, died of complications from the injuries sustained in the line of duty.

SEE ALSO: HFD Captain Dowling, who was injured in deadly 2013 motel fire, has died

"Three more firefighters lost their ability to work, so (we) actually lost eight firefighters that day, in a manner of speaking," former district chief Curtis Seamans said.

Seamans was in charge of the crews that day.

"I don't know how else to say it other than they're closer than family," he said.

There have been changes for the department in the past eight years as a result of the fire. Radio communication was nearly impossible on the day of the fire because too many radios were being used. Now, radio traffic is limited, and when a commander sees a building is about to collapse.

SEE ALSO: Wife of fallen HFD captain sues Motorola over SW Inn fire

The motel was also being remodeled, so the crews basically had no idea of the layout that day. Since then, the department has made plans available online to responding fire crews.

These changes are designed to help keep the past from repeating, even as these folks come to the scene specifically to remember exactly what was lost.

"We come here to lean on each other a little bit and think about that day and try to make something out of it," Seamans said.

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