UPDATE: The State Fire Marshal's office has released its final report on the deadly May 2017 fire that killed San Antonio Firefighter Scott Deem.
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The full report also can be found below. Here are a few of the recommendations that stand out in the summary:
- Prevent freelancing
- Improve accountability
- Evaluate and train on mayday procedures
- Ensure pre-fire plans are in place
- Conduct fire code inspections of all commercial buildings using a risk analysis approach
- Adopt "culture change" with greater emphasis on firefighter accountability and safety
- Follow recommended practice for fire service training reports and records.
This is a developing story. Stay with KSAT 12 both online and on-air for more information.
Changes are coming to the San Antonio Fire Department in the wake of a deadly 2017 fire that killed San Antonio firefighter Scott Deem.
Fire Chief Charles Hood opened up Thursday about the lessons learned from that deadly battle — the day before the state fire marshal’s office releases its full review into that fire at the Ingram Square Shopping Center last May.
The state fire marshal’s office does a review any time a firefighter is killed in the line of duty. Part of it includes a peer review, where another fire department in Texas — in this case the Houston Fire Department — is tapped to assess what led to the firefighter’s death.
Of the 10 main findings in that report, Hood said half are directly related to Deem’s death and the critical injury of firefighter Brad Phipps.
Of the most significant findings, Hood said crews treated the fire more like a house fire rather than a fire at a commercial property. That affects where fire trucks park and how much water they try to get to the scene of the fire.
They also made the decision to search the building. Hood said looking back, given how intense that fire was — coupled with the windy conditions that day — that decision should not have been made.
The report also talks about “freelancing” — a term that refers to when a commanding firefighter gives an order but crews decide to take a different action without command knowing.
That’s what happened the night Deem died, Hood said. The crew he was a part of was instructed to search the building. Instead, some firefighters began to pull down pieces of the ceiling,.
Despite that, Hood said the wind that night and the speed of the fire were two things that were hard to overcome.
The first person Hood said he shared the report with was Deem's widow.
"You're dealing with a lot of emotions," he said. "You're dealing with anger, frustration, pain, confusion as a spouse. You don't know where to channel that. And the best thing we can do for someone that loses somebody is to give them the truth and to know that their loved one -- we're never going to forget them."
These findings, Hood said, all come with recommendations to improve SAFD’s performance in the future.
Some of those changes have already been implemented, he said. Others are planned for the future.
Hood said that forgiveness is what he’s asking from his department — not for the man accused, but forgiveness for themselves.
He also emphasized that his department must honor Deem by learning from their loss.
“We don’t necessarily want to assign guilt to anyone, but we need to learn from these mistakes which are going to follow everyone who was at that event for the rest of their lives,” he said. “And that’s why we have to continue to preach that word forgiveness. Because we didn't set that fire. No one in this organization is a demon; no one in the organization is a villain.”
The fire started in a gym at the Ingram Square Shopping Center and the owner of that gym is charged with murder and arson for allegedly setting the fire.
The man was reportedly behind on rent and told investigators that he wanted to get out of his lease.
A third firefighter was pulled from that burning building after he was unaccounted for.
Later this year, the San Antonio Fire Department plans to open the Scott Deem Survivability and Training Center just east of downtown near Fire Station #1. Chief Hood said the center will put firefighters in intense training scenarios.
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