Around 9:30 pm Thursday, May 18, Station 35 received a call reporting a fire in the 6700 Block of Ingram Road. Fire fighters from 35 traveled to the strip center in response. The first group of fire fighters to enter the blaze would later become trapped and one would become separated from the group.
“We are a good fire department, we are a safe department,” Charles Hood, San Antonio Fire Department Chief told those gathered at the press conference this morning. Unfortunately, tragedy happens to even the safest fire fighters.
As the fire grew around the members of the 35 another alarm sounded and more fire fighters from San Antonio responded. Before the evening ended and the fire was extinguished fire fighters would respond to two other alarms. Sixty units and almost most of the San Antonio fire department would participate in bringing the blaze to an end.
However, the most serious alarm happened during the fire. A mayday call signaling that members of the department combating the blaze were in trouble. Two members of the 35 were rescued from being trapped in the fire and were transported to the local hospitals. One member of the 35 remained behind.
The Chief ordered all fire fighters from the building, water was turned off, and the lost fire fighter was located by his beeper.
Members of the department retrieved the fallen fire fighter, wrapped his body in the station’s flag, and transported him to the Medical Examiner’s office. “Last night our guys who have responded to San Antonio’s worse accidents, fires, and losses, experience one of our own. It truly was our worse night.”
The last time a member of the San Antonio Fire Department was killed in the line of duty was twenty years ago almost to the day.
Injured in the fire was Helotes area resident Brad Phipps. Phipps works in the 35 station for San Antonio and serves as Captain for the ESD District 2 Department. Phipps and his family have supported Helotes Ag projects and Helotes Little League.
“There were reports that as he was brought out wounded, injured, he was battling the paramedics to go back in,” said Chief Hood. “That’s how these firefighters are. You have to corral every single person to keep them from going back in the building.”
The fire is being investigated by a group of agencies including City, State, and Federal. Although it is too early to determine the cause of the blaze, fire officials have a location for the start of the blaze.
San Antonio Mayor, Ivy Taylor, has asked Texas Governor Gregg Abbott to authorize flags to fly at half-staff. Flags in San Antonio will remain at half-staff until the internment.
She also released the following statement: “This morning, members of the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association shared with me a lot about who Scott Deem was and what he meant to the men and women he served beside,” said Mayor Taylor. “He was a family man, a husband, a father, and a firefighter. He was a good friend to everyone who knew him and was an asset to the San Antonio Fire Department in every sense of the word.”
Deem was one of the first firefighters who responded to a 4-alarm blaze around 9 p.m. on Thursday, May 18 at a strip mall on the 6700 block of Ingram Road. He did not make it out. Two other firefighters were injured and remain hospitalized.
“I was at the emergency room last night and was reminded not just about the bravery and strength of the men and women in uniform, but also of their loved ones who pray something like this never happens,” said Mayor Taylor.
San Antonians who wish to leave flowers or other items in memory of Mr. Deem can do so at the Public Safety Headquarters, 315 S. Santa Rosa Ave., 78207.