Firefighters Injured in Houston 4-Alarmer

Updated: 03-29-2007 09:20:32 AM

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Firefighters resumed their search of an office building after a four-alarm fire claimed three lives, KPRC Local 2 reported Thursday.

The fire started at the building at 9343 North Loop East at Gellhorn at about 5:15 p.m. Wednesday.

Flames shot out of the top floors of the building and the roof. Thick black smoke filled the sky and forced traffic on the North Loop to come to a standstill.

The inferno raged through the building for more than an hour. Officials called for four alarms because they needed extra manpower to battle the intense heat and flames.

Crews searched the building and found three bodies on the fifth floor. The Harris County Medical Examiner's Office was at the building during the night to remove the bodies and begin to identify the victims.

Employees inside the building said they did not know what was happening because they did not hear any alarms.

"Someone ran into the building and told us it was on fire," one employee said. "They could see fire coming from the side of the building."

Gloria Castillo was outside the building when she ran in to alert everyone inside.

"I saw flames inside the building," Castillo said. "I went into the building screaming 'fire.' Nobody knew the building was on fire."

People trapped inside were able to call for help because the phone lines were working.

"We had several phone calls from people to dispatch telling us they were on different floors in their offices, trapped," District Chief Tommy Dowdy said.

Firefighters rescued several people inside the building by using a ladder truck.

Part of the building collapsed just after 10 p.m. Firefighters were at the building all night to put out any hot spots that popped up and secure the scene.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Officials said it started in a medical supply office on the fifth floor of the building.

The building was built in the early 1980s and has more than 62,000 square feet of office space.

Firefighters, Civilians Injured

Several firefighters and people inside the building when the fire broke out suffered injuries.

Five firefighters and three civilians were rushed to hospitals for treatment.

Captains Joel Eric Abdt and David Langford remained hospitalized in fair condition at Memorial Hermann Hospital on Thursday. One fell off a ladder and the other was badly bruised.

Yogeshv Bali, 47, was listed in critical condition at Memorial Hermann Hospital with smoke inhalation.

Three firefighters and two civilians were treated and released.