In Houston, four firefighters were killed battling a five-alarm fire in a hotel and restaurant today.
The four firefighters killed had been responding to the five-alarm blaze at Bhojan restaurant, which eventually spread to the nearby Southwest Inn in Houston. Over 150 responded to the massive fire, which raged in temperatures already topping 95 degrees.
According to the Houston Fire Department, the fire started at the Bhojan Restaurant at 12:09 PM Central Time. The blaze soon spread to the adjacent Southwest Inn on Southwest Freeway, also engulfing a bar and dance club.
Southwest Inn guest Sammy Sewell said that three explosions rocked the hotel as it caught fire, sending guests running down hallways screaming.
“Next thing you know, it was ‘boom!’ It scared the crap out of me. I mean, it sounded like a cannon going off. That’s how loud it was… I could have sworn it picked this building up and put it back down.”
It is not currently clear if all 45 guests believed to be in the hotel were evacuated from the fire.
Houston Fire Department Chief Terry Garrison said he could “confirm four firefighters have passed away, and we cannot release their names at this juncture.” Garrison was meeting with the families of the fallen, he said.
President of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association Jeff Caynon said that the cause of the fatalities is still being worked out, adding:
“The roof collapsed. I don’t know if that was folks outside next to the structure or inside when it collapsed, but the collapse is going to be the cause.”
The fire that killed four firefighters has also significantly snarled traffic across one of Houston’s major byways, and motorists are advised to avoid the vicinity of the blaze if at all possible:
Commuters on the Southwest Freeway are urged to avoid the area near today’s 5-alarm fire. chron.com/news/houston-t…
— Houston Chronicle (@HoustonChron) May 31, 2013
The cause of the fire has not yet been established. Three of the firefighters killed died at the scene, and the fourth passed away in a local hospital.