HOUSTON -- The faces have been revealed of the four firefighters who lost their lives in Friday’s deadly restaurant and motel blaze at the Southwest Inn along the Southwest Freeway.
They include EMT Cpt. Matthew Renaud, 35, and Engineer Operator EMT Robert Bebee, 41, who were both 12-year veterans of the Houston Fire Department. They were both assigned to Station 51.
Firefighter EMT Robert Garner, 29, served two tours in Afghanistan before becoming a firefighter in 2010. Probationary Firefighter Anne Sullivan, 24, had just graduated from the HFD Academy in April. Both were assigned to Station 68.
They were among more than 100 firefighters who braved 90-degree temperatures, strong winds and high humidity Friday after a five-alarm fire broke out in a restaurant.
They believed that people were trapped inside. The restaurant was attached to the Southwest Inn and quickly spread.
Osman Habbal had been living at the motel for the past four months and was among the 45 residents staying there. He said lost everything in the fire.
“All of my legal paperwork, my laptop, my clothes,” he said. “Hopefully by Monday I’ll be able to buy some new stuff.”
The Red Cross is now helping people like him find places to stay. Yet he knows his problems pale in comparison to those families who lost firefighters.
“That goes beyond any material you can lose as an individual or even as a community,” he said.
The scene of Friday’s deadly blaze is still off limits to everyone but investigators. Houston Fire Department’s arson unit is leading the investigation with the assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
For them, it is still an active scene.
At the same time KHOU 11 News has also learned about past violations at the restaurant. Records show that earlier this year it was cited for grease traps that had not been cleared as often as required.
It is not clear if the blaze started as a grease fire.
Investigators have not said how much time they will need at the scene. Traffic delays are expected to continue in an area which has already seen so much sadness and disbelief.