Structural Damage Slows Fatal Building Fire Investigation

Houston fire investigators are at the scene of yesterday's deadly blaze that killed three people and injured several firefighters at an office building on the city's northeast side. Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams has the latest.

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The six-story building just off the busy North Loop East sits silent today, with heavy fire damage clearly visible on the two upper floors. Houston Fire Department district chief Tommy Dowdy says that damage has kept firefighters and arson investigators outside for most of the day.

"We have not done a formal secondary search, so we not going to feel good about this. There's nobody standing out here going Uncle Joe was at work yesterday. Where's he at? It's just part of what we do. We're not going to feel confident that we've dotted i's and crossed t's until we've done that. There's some movement on the columns in the back. We're not building engineers so we're not going to go back in there until someone tells us the building is okay because if it's just a recovery effort we don't want to get anybody hurt."

Dowdy says because it was built in 1980 and is only 6-stories high, the building was not required to have a sprinkler system or a fire alarm. He says this was one of the most intense fires he's ever seen in Houston.

"The wind probably was the biggest contributor to this fire extension. If had been a calm day, it would probably have stayed in one area. It would have moved with the contents, but with the wind pushing it, it didn't need a whole lot of encouragement to go on."

The bodies of the three victims of the fire were found on the building's fifth floor and removed by firefighters earlier today.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...