Building layout presents ‘dangerous’ challenge to crews battling fire at local business

Building modifications, burglar bars caused delays, firefighters say

SAN ANTONIO – Fire, it seems, was not the only challenge for firefighters who raced to a North Side business early Thursday after getting a call about smoke in the area.

When those fire crews arrived in the 600 block of W. Rhapsody, they said they had trouble getting into the building.

“There had been extensive building modifications. Windows had been boarded up. We had interior burglar bars. So those presented some extreme challenges in gaining access,” said Battalion Chief Shawn Griffin with SAFD.

The focus of their attention was a business called JS Fine Wines.

It was closed when the fire call came in around 4 a.m.

However, firefighters could see smoke pouring out of it but did not know where it was coming from.

They made several attempts to enter the building from different directions, at one point using an electric saw to forge a hole in a back door.

Inside, they say they faced dark rooms with confusing layouts, a situation they call “extremely dangerous.”

Trying to maneuver through it with their equipment, they say, was difficult.

At one point there were nearly 20 fire units at the scene of the fire at a wine business. (KSAT 12 News)

“These are the kind of buildings that firefighters get hurt in, and we have fatalities in,” Griffin said.

Fortunately, no one was hurt fighting the fire. Griffin said crews did not find anyone inside when they conducted a search.

It took about an hour for them to track down the source of the smoke.

Griffin said firefighters found the fire in a back storage room and put it out.

It destroyed the storage room, and smoke caused damage to the rest of the building.

As of late Thursday morning, investigators were still working to isolate the cause of the fire.

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About the Authors:

Katrina Webber joined KSAT 12 in December 2009. She reports for Good Morning San Antonio. Katrina was born and raised in Queens, NY, but after living in Gulf Coast states for the past decade, she feels right at home in Texas. It's not unusual to find her singing karaoke or leading a song with her church choir when she's not on-air.

Santiago Esparza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.