SAN ANTONIO - Nearly a month after a fire tore through the Ingram Square shopping center, killing one firefighter and injuring two others, the aftermath is still visible.
Images from behind the chain-link fence that now surrounds it are a painful reminder of the night of May 18, when 83 firefighting units showed up to put out a four-alarm fire there.
San Antonio firefighters were dispatched to the shopping center about 9:10 p.m. after a report of a structure fire was received.
SAFD Ladder 35 and Engine 35 were among the first responding units to arrive and requested a second alarm shortly after finding heavy smoke coming from multiples structures in the strip mall.
SAFD firefighters Scott Deem, from Ladder 35, and Brad Phipps, from Engine 35, entered one of the businesses in an attempt to attack the fire and search for possible victims who may have been trapped inside.
Less than 30 minutes into battling the fire from the inside is when SAFD Chief Charles Hood said the department had its worst day after one of the fighters from Fire Station 35 sounded a mayday call.
After reporting heavy smoke and high heat conditions, the battalion chief in command ordered all personnel out of the structure, but it was later learned that Deem and Phipps were unaccounted for shortly after the mandate.
Eleven-year SAFD veteran Robert Vasquez was one of the rescuers in the Technical Rescue Team who recovered Phipps, also an 11-year veteran, from the structure and also attempted to locate Deem, who had been with the department for six years.
Vasquez was brought out of the structure approximately 48 minutes into the incident after suffering injuries that prevented him from continuing the rescue mission.
After multiple attempts to locate Deem, all rescue operations ceased due to fire conditions that were considered too dangerous to continue search efforts.
The loss of a firefighter with two others injured was felt across the country by first responders and the San Antonio community as a whole.
On May 26, community members draped flags on highway overpasses along the route for Deem’s funeral procession.
Thousands of from all over the nation also paid their final respects in memorializing the life of Deem at Community Bible Church during the funeral services.
Thousands pay tribute at the funeral services for fallen @SATXFire Scott Deem. More images↪️ https://t.co/5wj6OxjCaD #KSATnews #SAFDStrong pic.twitter.com/FyQXkbQN2k — Adrian Garcia (@KSATadrian) May 26, 2017
Deem was remembered as a family man who loved being a firefighter and supporter of the Dallas Cowboys.
Three weeks later after the tragedy, contractors are at work trying to salvage what’s left of the building, as the investigation into the fatal fire remains open.
Phipps was hospitalized at San Antonio Military Medical Center and is said to be still in critical condition.
For anyone looking to help the families, the SAFD advises they follow the link provided.
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