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Thread: Houston Firefighter Killed in Collapse at Ballroom Blaze

  1. #1
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    Houston Firefighter Killed in Collapse at Ballroom Blaze

    Deadly Ballroom Fire Sparks Arson Investigation
    Fire Officials Not Sure If Blaze Was Accident, Intentionally Set

    Story by Click2Houston

    HOUSTON -- Arson investigators continued to search for clues into what might have caused a ballroom to go up in flames early Sunday morning.

    One firefighter was killed and three others were injured after they ran into the building to try and help patrons inside escape.

    Officials said the fire caused the roof to collapse, trapping Houston firefighter Kevin Wayne Kulow, 32.

    Fellow firefighters found Kulow's body in the rubble after the fire was extinguished.

    Fire investigators from the Houston Fire Department, the state Fire Marshall's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sifted through the debris Monday, trying to determine if the blaze was an accident or arson. They also want to know why Kulow was the only firefighter unable to escape.

    A dog specially trained to sniff out hydrocarbons that could be used to start a fire went through the wreckage.

    "We were forced to go into defensive mode. We couldn't make our way inside, so we had to pull everybody back," a Houston Fire Department spokesman said.

    Family, Friends Mourn Firefighter

    Family members and fellow firefighters mourned the loss of a fallen hero and father Sunday.

    More than 100 firefighters saluted an ambulance carrying Kulow's body.

    Houston Mayor Bill White attended the silent procession.

    "I hope all Houstonians on this Sunday morning keep all the families in their prayers. These are people who work for us every day, putting their lives at risk," White said.

    Firefighters and total strangers gathered in front of Fire Station No. 50 on Bingle Road to honor Kulow. He was the 58th Houston firefighter to die in the line of duty.

    "We don't know him but we felt love in our heart and love toward his family," Houstonian Yvonne Martinez said.

    Kulow Killed In Roof Collapse

    Kulow was killed when a northwest Houston ballroom's roof collapsed as firefighters tried to put out a massive fire and rescue people inside the building.

    Flames erupted at the El Festival Ballroom on Kempwood at Wirt around 6 a.m. Sunday.

    Firefighters responded to a call concerning a truck fire; however, when firefighters and police arrived, they found the ballroom on fire.

    People standing outside the ballroom told firefighters that there may have been some people inside.



    Kulow and three others went inside to look for people stuck in the blaze. He was the only firefighter to not make it out of the building alive.

    "He put his life on the line and it cost. When somebody was in there and it was his turn to go in, he went in. If there was a life, he'd put it on the line to go save somebody else's and that's what he did," Kulow's brother, Keith, said.

    The other three firefighters were rescued from the blaze.

    Firefighter Eddie Perrot suffered a fractured collar bone and Capt. Robert Smith was treated as a precautionary measure.

    Capt. James Walterbach, an 11-year department veteran, remained in a hospital listed in serious condition Monday.

    Officials said the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

    Kulow was a probationary firefighter who joined the Houston Fire Department in September 2003. He was a volunteer firefighter as a teenager in his hometown of Sealy, Austin County, before joining the Houston Fire Department.

    The victim's family said he had wanted to be a firefighter since he was a teenager.

    Kulow leaves behind a wife and two children.

    Organizations Set Up Donation Funds

    The 100 Club, a nonprofit organization that benefits the families of fallen officials, and The Last Alarm Club of Houston have set up a funds for Kulow's family.



    Contributions can be made to:

    100-Club Survivor's Fund
    1233 West Loop S.
    Suite 1250
    Houston, TX 77027

    The Last Alarm Club of Houston
    1907 Freeman
    Houston, TX 77009



    Copyright 2004 by Click2Houston.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    Houston Fire Department Media Release


    Probationary Firefighter Kevin Kulow lost his life in an early morning night club fire today. Kulow (DOB 11/2/1971) who entered the department in September 15, 2003 graduated from the Val Jahnke Training Facilities on Monday, November 17, 2003. Firefighter Kulow was a crew member of Fire Station 50 located at 4420 Bingle Road.

    Kulow is the 58th Houston Firefighter to die in the line of duty. The last HFD Line of Duty Death was Captain Jay Jahnke on October 13, 2001.

    The fire is currently under investigation. More information will be announced at a later date.


    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...1&sectionId=39

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    One Firefighter Killed, Three Injured in Nightclub Fire

    TAD HATHAWAY
    Courtesy of News 24 Houston

    It's been a rough day for the firefighters who responded to this morning's fire at the El Festival Nightclub.

    The blaze claimed the life of 32-year-old Kevin Kulow, a rookie who had been with the HFD for less than a year.

    Kulow and three others from Station 50 went into the heart of the fire after receiving reports that people were trapped inside the building.

    After going in, they realized the fire was too hot. As they were trying to exit the burning building, Kulow was trapped by the collapsing walls and could not make it out.

    "We have all kind of new devices and new safety techniques and new procedures, and regardless of that, a fire is very deadly, it's very treacherous. I mean, you think you have something under control and it'll come back and bite you," said HFD Assistant Chief Raul Reyes.

    As for the three firefighters who went in with Kulow, they were taken to the hospital and are reported in stable condition.

    Fire officials are saying that it doesn't appear there was anyone in the building to begin with. Arson investigators are on the scene.

    Kulow is survived by a wife and two children. He was the 58th Houston firefighter to be killed in the line of duty.

    Donations are being accepted to "The 100 Club Survivor's Fund", which provides benefits to the dependents of firefighters and law enforcement officers who lose their life in the line of duty.

    If you wish to help, contributions may be made to: 100 Club Survivor's Fund, 1233 West Loop South, Suite 1250, Houston, TX 77027, or by going to www.the100club.org.


    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...8&sectionId=39

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    Memorial Fund Established for Firefighter Kevin Kulow


    Sealy VFD
    Press Release

    A memorial fund has been established after the death of Firefighter Kevin Kulow at any Wells Fargo location or at Citizens State Bank of Sealy. The accounts are currently set up in care of Sealy Volunteer Fire Department at this time. All donations are greatly appreciated in this family's time of need.

    Kevin Kulow Memorial Fund: (care of Sealy Volunteer Fire Department)


    Citizens State Bank of Sealy
    Routing # 113104275
    Acct. # 200237426


    Wells Fargo Bank
    Routing # 580806216
    Acct. # 5051219847


    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...0&sectionId=39

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    Memorial Service Information for Fire Fighter Kulow, Houston Fire Department


    Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association
    Local 341.org

    Memorial Services for Fire Fighter Kulow are as follows.

    Memorial Service
    Wednesday, April 7, 2004; 11:30AM
    Second Baptist Church
    6400 Woodway Drive
    Houston, TX 77057


    Viewing
    Thursday, April 8, 2004; 10:00 AM
    Knesek Funeral Home
    768 Forth Street
    Sealy, TX 77474


    Funeral Service
    Thursday, April 8, 2004; 2:00 PM
    Christian City Fellowship
    5243 Hwy. 36 North
    Sealy, TX 77474


    Donations can be made in the name of Kevin Kulow to the Last Alarm Club.

    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...9&sectionId=39

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    State and Federal Agencies Investigating Cause of Deadly Houston Fire

    SABRINA GOEL
    Courtesy of News24Houston.com

    One day after Houston firefighter Kevin Kulow died while battling a blaze, there are more questions than answers.

    "Until I see the report and we do the investigation, nothing appears to be out of the ordinary at this particular point and time. Everything appears to be as far as fire department policy and procedure," said Assistant Fire Chief Hector Trevino.

    Several state and federal agencies are now involved in the investigation.

    "All these people will be looking into what happened out there, trying to put this puzzle together as to find out the cause of the fire, and also the line of duty death," said Trevino.

    Some of the questions being asked are how many firefighters initially went into the burning building, how Kevin Kulow got seperated from his group and if he was wearing a monitoring device.

    "To my knowledge, the accountability system was working and it was on, and also the PASS device. Firefighter Kulow was wearing a PASS device. Until it's proven otherwise to me, that's what I'm going to say," said Trevino.

    Arson investigators are reluctant to say whether the fire was intentionally set, but they do acknowledge that hydrocarbons have been found at the scene.

    "I would say that the fire is of a suspicious nature. That's why arson is called -- anytime a fire is suspicious, arson is...called. It'll be through origin and cause to find out whether the fire is in fact accidental or incendiary," said HFD Arson Inspector Donald Haynes.

    The Houston Fire Department says it could be weeks or even months before a final report of the fire is released. Meanwhile, the medical examiner's office is conducting an autopsy to determine exactly how Kevin Kulow died.

    Three other firefighters were injured in Sunday's fire. Two of those injured were treated and released, but a third firefighter remains hospitalized with smoke inhalation.

    He's listed in good condition.

    Meanwhile, funeral arrangements have been set for Kevin Kulow. There is a memorial open to the public on Wednesday at Second Baptist Church at 11:30 a.m. There will be a processional beforehand that will start at Fire Station 2 and end at the church.

    The family will have a private funeral in Sealy on Thursday.


    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...8&sectionId=39

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    Suspect Arrested In Blaze That Killed Fireman
    Another Suspect Sought In Arson Case

    Story by Click2Houston

    HOUSTON -- A man was arrested in connection with the deadly arson fire that killed a Houston firefighter, police said Wednesday.

    James Alonzo Guevara, 20, was arrested Tuesday and charged with capital murder in the death of Kevin Kulow, 32.

    Kulow died Sunday morning fighting a fire at the El Festival Ballroom, 7610 Kempwood, searching for people trapped inside. Three other firefighters were injured in the blaze. One remains in fair condition at Memorial Hermann Hospital.

    Guevara and several others set the fire in retaliation against his ex-wife, who worked there as a barmaid, according to authorities.

    He became a suspect when his estranged wife told police Guevara threatened to kill her in order to gain custody of their toddler.

    Guevara confessed to police after his arrest, officials said.

    Investigators said a lot of accelerant was used to torch the building.

    "There was a significant amount of accelerant there -- more than I've ever seen in my 32 years. And I think it's appalling that these people would go to that extent to burn that building," said Roy Paul, with the Houston Fire Department.

    Investigators said Guevara has shown no remorse for the crime.

    Police also identified a second suspect in the case -- Shawn Jay Reneau, 32 -- who is not yet in custody.

    Reneau, who has used 16 aliases, is wanted on other charges including felony forgery-criminal instrument and a parole violation for burglary.

    Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers at (713) 222-TIPS or the Houston Police Homicide Division at (713) 308-3600.



    Final Farewell Held For Firefighter
    Hours before the announcement of the arrest, family, friends and fellow firefighters said goodbye to Kulow at a moving public memorial service.

    A traditional fire department processional honored Kulow as his body was carried from Fire Station No. 2 to Second Baptist Church for the service.

    Hundreds of people attended, including dozens of firefighters.

    The family will attend a private funeral Thursday.

    Kulow leaves behind a wife of eight years, a 13-year-old stepson and a 5-year-old son.


    Donation Funds Set Up
    The 100 Club, a nonprofit organization that benefits the families of fallen officials, and The Last Alarm Club of Houston have set up funds for Kulow's family.

    Contributions can be made to:

    100-Club Survivor's Fund
    1233 West Loop S.
    Suite 1250
    Houston, TX 77027

    The Last Alarm Club of Houston
    1907 Freeman
    Houston, TX 77009


    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...3&sectionId=39

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    Kulow, Kevin Wayne

    Age: 32
    Cause of Death: Caught or Trapped
    Rank: Probationary Firefighter
    Nature of Death: Burns
    Status: Career
    Emergency Duty: Yes

    Incident Date: 04/04/2004
    Duty Type: Fireground Operations
    Incident Time: 05:55
    Activity Type: Search and Rescue
    Death Date: 04/04/2004
    Fixed Prop. Use: Public Assembly

    Fire Dept. Info:
    Houston Fire Department
    1205 Dart St.
    Houston , Texas 77007
    Chief: Acting Fire Chief Hector Trevino

    Initial Summary:
    Probationary Firefighter Kulow lost his life in an early morning night club fire when he and three other firefighters from Station 50 entered the building to provide search and rescue for victims reported trapped by the flames. Inside, the fire had developed to a point that the firefighters made a quick exit of the structure but a collapse of the walls trapped Kulow as he attempted to leave killing him. As reported in the press, no other fire victims were discovered and the three firefighters who escaped were taken to the hospital and are in stable condition.

    Memorial Fund Info:
    Care of Sealy Volunteer Fire Department, PO Box 736, Sealy, TX 77474 Citizens State Bank of Sealy Routing # 113104275 Acct. # 200237426 Wells Fargo Bank Routing # 580806216 Acct. # 5051219847


    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/application...eath_year=2004

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