Review: San Antonio Fire Department mishandled deadly blaze

KTSA/Dennis Foley

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A peer review of the San Antonio Fire Department reveals that commanders and firefighters made several mistakes while battling a blaze at a shopping center that killed one of them.
Fire Chief Charles Hood provided an overview of the review’s summary report on Thursday. The report is expected to be released Friday by the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office.
The review by the Houston Fire Department found that the SAFD treated the May fire at Ingram Square Shopping Center like they would a residential fire, not a commercial one.
Firefighters reportedly searched for survivors in the building despite conditions indicating that no one would have survived, according to the review. The fire crew that went in also didn’t have a fire hose, which is considered a lifeline in a fire incident.
A firefighter who entered the shopping center pulled ceiling tiles that resulted in the fire coming down on him and firefighter Scott Deem, who was killed. Pulling down ceiling tiles is typically done to find a fire’s origin, not during search and rescue operations, according to the report.
Hood acknowledged that the department made mistakes, backing off his original claim “that what they did was the right decision at the time.” But he maintained that none of the mistakes led to Deem’s death or the injuries to two other firefighters.
“We’re dedicating resources and personnel to make sure this never happens again,” Hood said. “We want to learn from these findings.”
Months after the fire, authorities arrested a man and charged him with one count of murder and four arson-related counts. Authorities alleged that the man used a disposable cigarette lighter to ignite a combination of gasoline and oil. He remains in jail in lieu of posting $1.63 million bail.

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