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Thread: Houston Fire Captain, Man Killed In High-Rise Blaze

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    Houston Fire Captain, Man Killed In High-Rise Blaze

    20-Year Veteran Was Part of Firefighting Family

    HOUSTON -- A five-alarm blaze broke out in a high-rise apartment complex in Houston on Saturday, killing a firefighter and a man, and injuring several others.

    The fire erupted at about 4:45 a.m. Saturday in one of the Four Leaf Towers, 5100 San Felipe, in the Galleria area.

    Houston Fire Department officials told News2Houston that the blaze broke out in an apartment on the fifth floor and quickly spread.

    Firefighters climbed up to the fifth floor and found themselves trapped, along with many residents in the 40-story building, officials said.

    Four firefighters were injured and were transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital, where one of them later died. He has been identified as Capt. Jay Jahnke.

    Jahnke died of apparent smoke inhalation, HFD spokesman Jay Evans said.

    One of the other firefighters suffered third-degree burns to his hands and arms, while the other two suffered smoke inhalation.

    Two paramedics and at least eight apartment residents were also taken to area hospitals, suffering from smoke inhalation, though none of their injuries was considered life-threatening, authorities said.

    After controlling the blaze 4 hours later, a man's body was found in the apartment where investigators said that they believe the fire started.

    The man's wife had managed to escape the inferno, but remained hospitalized Saturday night, suffering from smoke inhalation, officials said.

    The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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    Firefighters, Residents Describe Chaotic Scene

    The remaining residents were safely evacuated from the tower, but were still shaken from what many, including firefighters, said was a chaotic scene reminiscent of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

    "We were meeting people in the stairwells coming down in their night clothes. The stairwells were real narrow," HFD Senior Capt. William Sheffield said. "You know its deja vu of the World Trade Center.

    "You could see those pictures of firemen trying to go up and people coming down. The same thing here," Sheffield said.

    Many residents said that they were awakened by neighbors living in the adjacent tower.

    Other residents said that they were told go up to the roof, but then had to make their way down and were lost in all the confusion.

    "I was thinking about (the) World Trade Center and how tragic these things can be," resident Earl Lilly said. "Brings it right home."

    Authorities said that residents with undamaged units were expected to return to their homes Saturday night.

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    Former President Bush Visits Fire Station

    Former President George Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush visited Houston Fire Station 2, 5880 Woodway, in the Galleria area.

    "Look at the courage of these guys," George Bush said. "Here's one that has burned in the fire himself and the least we can do is stop in and pay our respects."

    The Bushes consoled firefighters and saw a make-shift memorial at the station made of flowers and flags, reminding many of the national terrorist tragedy in New York.

    "We've always admired the firefighters and they've been through this trauma nationally," Bush said. "And now we have it in our own backyard, the sacrifice and suffering for these guys."

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    Veteran Firefighter Dies

    Capt. Jay Jahnke, 40, was a 20-year veteran of the Houston Fire Department.

    He leaves behind a wife and two children.

    Jahnke comes from a long line of firefighters. His father, brother and other relatives are all firefighters.

    "He has a lot of relatives in the fire department," firefighter Steven Bradford said. "I think he has a cousin that's in the police department too. The Jahnkes have been around the Houston Fire Department for a long time."

    He was promoted to captain in 1997 and also served as a safety officer for the Cypress Creek Volunteer Fire Department.

    "He's a real fine guy. He knew everything," Bradford said. "He was very likeable. He wasn't like a captain, he was like a friend, (a) brother."

    "Very professional person (and a) great leader," firefighter Matthew Sultemeier said. "He cared for both people inside the fire house and outside on the streets."

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    3 Houston Firefighters Killed In Recent History

    Capt. Jahnke's death marks the third time in recent history that a Houston firefighter has died in the line of duty.

    Firefighters Lewis Mayo, 44, and Kimberly Smith, 30, were killed after the roof of a burning McDonald's restaurant collapsed on them on Feb. 14, 2000.

    The three teens were convicted of murder for torching the restaurant after their nighttime burglary on Feb. 14.

    Prison terms for the teenangers ranged from 15 to 35 years.

    Prior to the McDonald's fire, the last time a Houston firefighter died on the scene had been 1977.


    Jahnke Memorial Fund Established


    A memorial fund has been set up to help the Jahnke family. Those wanting to help are asked to either go by the Bank of Tanglewood or mail a check, payable to the bank, with the following address:

    Capt. Jay Jahnke Memorial Fund
    Bank Of Tanglewood
    500 Chimney Rock
    Houston, TX 77056

    For more information, you can call the bank at (713) 266-2900.

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    Official Houston FD Statement

    Captain Jay P. Jahnke of the Houston Fire Department, lost his live this morning while battling a multiple-alarm fire at the Four Leaf Towers on San Felipe and Post Oak. Captain Jay Jahnke (DOB: 9/16/61) responded from Fire Station 2, located at 5880 Woodway.

    Jay Jahnke entered the Houston Fire Department on December 2, 1981.He comes from a long-line of firefighters with many other family members in the Houston Fire Department. The Val Jahnke Training Facility was named after his uncle several years ago.

    In 1991 he was promoted to Engineer Operator and in 1997 was promoted to Captain. Besides fire station 2, he worked at station 6, located at 3402 Washington; station 11, located at 460 T.C. Jester; station 22, located at 7825 Harrisburg; and station 28, located at 3000 Chimney Rock.

    During his almost 20 years of service with the Fire Department, he has shown great love, dedication and tireless effort for firefighting. He was a safety officer for the Cypress Creek Volunteer Fire Department. Jahnke also felt the importance of teaching citizens about the fire department and firefighting, and was a volunteer instructor of the HFD Citizens Fire Academy.

    The last firefighters to die in the line of duty were Firefighter

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