Video posted to Facebook by WOAI-TV staffers shows extensive damage to the building’s second floor caused by a fire early Tuesday morning.
Employees at the scene said they heard a fire alarm ringing shortly before 5 a.m.
Rex Maysonet, a contractor working security, said he immediately began searching, both inside and outside, the building for whatever triggered the alarm.
“At the time that I came back to the front, there was smoke out of the corner of the building at the front. So that's when everybody started to evacuate the building,” Maysonet said.
Most employees were already out of the building by the time firefighters arrived, he said.
The fire, however, refused to go out for nearly an hour, according to Assistant Fire Chief Oscar Gonzalez.
He said the department had to call a second alarm, bringing about 50 firefighters to the scene.
"Our guys really worked hard for about a good 45 minutes to an hour,” Gonzalez said. “It's just a big open space and you can see where it had gotten in between the walls.”
Firefighters managed to keep the flames from spreading beyond the second floor.
However, Gonzalez said the first floor, where the studios are located, appears to have some smoke damage.
Still, water damage, which is usually a by-product of fighting fires this size, was kept to a minimum.
Battalion Chief Russell Johnson said, rather than spraying a lot of water on the fire, firefighters used a special compressed air foam.
He said the department has had it in its arsenal for about five years, but it’s coming in especially handy now.
“With the aquifer being really low like it is, we're trying to minimize and save all the water we can,” Johnson said. "(The foam) is real sticky and it sticks to the ceiling and the walls where the heat is, so very little water was used."
On-air staffers, meanwhile, worked from outside, broadcasting updates on the fire by way of WOAI’s sister station, KABB.
During the battle, firefighters had electricity to the building cut off, knocking WOAI off the air.
By mid–morning, some employees were allowed back inside the building, and posted video and pictures of the damage to the station’s Facebook page.
In one video, morning anchor Michael Garofalo narrates a tour of the room where the fire appears to have started, showing a charred file cabinet and blackened equipment.
Other pictures show areas of the building that appear to be untouched by smoke or fire.
As of 11 a.m., arson investigators had not determined the cause of the blaze.
John Seabers, General Manager of WOAI-TV, released a statement early Tuesday morning, saying, in part:
“At approximately 5:00 a.m., a fire alarm was triggered at WOAI-TV, and the building was evacuated. Fire units arrived shortly thereafter. The fire was contained to 2nd floor offices. We expect to have electricity restored to the building by noon. We are grateful no one was injured."
The statement also thanked the San Antonio Fire Department for their quick response and action.