CREATED: MAY 31, 2013
HOUSTON (AP) — Four firefighters were killed while battling a fire that engulfed a Houston motel and restaurant on Friday, and at least five other people were hospitalized, authorities said.
Flames were shooting from the roof of the Southwest Inn, along one of Houston's most heavily traveled expressways, and black smoke was blanketing the area as firefighters tried to extinguish the blaze.
Three firefighters were killed at the scene, while the fourth died at a hospital, according to the mayor's office and local medical examiner. Five other people were injured and were being treated at a hospital for chest pains or leg injuries.
The loss of life is the single worst in the history of the 116-year-old Houston Fire Department. When a flag-draped body was removed from the smoldering remains around 4 p.m., firefighters — working in swirling winds and temperatures exceeding 90 degrees — paused and saluted.
"It's a very sad day for the Houston Fire Department and the city of Houston as a whole," , said Janice Evans, a spokeswoman for Houston Mayor Annise Parker.
Field reports indicate that the firefighters were caught in a roof collapse, said Jeff Caynon, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association.