SAN ANTONIO – Residents expressed sympathy and showed support for the San Antonio Fire Department on Friday in the wake of the death of firefighter Scott Deem.
After firefighters endured one of the most painful, sleepless nights of their careers, members of the public got up early to let them know they care.
Not long after daybreak, Cruz Jimenez walked up the yellow caution tape surrounding the Ingram Square shopping center and placed a bouquet of colorful flowers on the grass.
"My wife was pretty broken up because of the fireman who lost his life," he said. "I just picked up some flowers at H-E-B and thought I'd lay them beside here."
Jimenez appeared to be the first person to leave flowers at the scene of Thursday night's fatal fire in the 6700 block of Ingram Road.
It wasn't long before many others joined him, leaving shows of sympathy at the scene and at Fire Station No. 35, where Deem was based.
Deem was among dozens of firefighters who battled the massive fire at the shopping center.
Fire Chief Charles Hood said Deem and firefighters Robert Vasquez and Brad Phipps became trapped when part of the building collapsed around them.
Vasquez and Phipps were rescued, but crews were unable to reach Deem in time.
By mid-morning Friday, the Fire Department issued a statement asking people to drop off flowers at Public Safety Headquarters downtown instead of the fire station.
"I just wanted to come and give some love and prayers," said Sharon Clayton, who ended up taking her bouquet of roses downtown. "It's nothing compared to what they do, so God bless them and the Scott Deem family. I just pray for them."
Some people didn't need flowers to show their sadness. It was all over their faces.
Be Be Garcia works at a beauty school a few doors down from where the fire erupted.
Garcia arrived at the shopping center early to let students know classes were cancelled and to express her condolences to firefighters.
She said worrying about property damage never crossed her mind.
"A firefighter can't be replaced. Our property can. That's the way we all should feel about that. Everything else is replaceable," Garcia said.
Although the flames and smoke stopped three doors from her business, Deem's death still hit close to home for her and many other people in the city.