SAN ANTONIO - The smoke has cleared, but deep sorrow still blankets the city. Firefighters, their families and the entire community are in mourning after a firefighter gave his life trying to save others.
A father of two with a baby on the way was lost, and another firefighter was left battling for his life at a local hospital Friday.
Reflecting on the loss, many called it a very dark day for first responders and San Antonio as a whole.
As fierce flames and thick smoke poured from the Spartan Gym in a horrific fire storm Thursday night on Ingram Road, San Antonio firefighters Scott Deem and Brad Phipps were two of many who raced to save lives.
"There was no idea whether there was anyone in the structure. You're looking at a gymnasium, at 9:10 in the evening. There were cars in the parking lot," SAFD Chief Charles Hood said.
With flames eating through the roof, Hood said an evacuation order was given, but it came too late.
Deem was lost, and Phipps was critically burned.
A third firefighter, Robert Vasquez, was treated and released from University Hospital.
Bystanders, like Robert Guerra, who watched his business burn, expressed their heartbreak at the scene of the fire.
"When you see firefighters down on their knees praying, that's how you know they are praying for their brother," Guerra said.
"As far as the activity of the rapid intervention team, that went in to pull these firefighters out, this is some of the most heroic firefighting I have ever seen," Hood said.
It took eighty long minutes for them to reach their brother, and wrap him gently in the flag from Ladder 35, his fire station.
After the roar of the fire, there was the sound of one final salute.
Sirens wailed at the scene, speaking for broken hearts and saying goodbye to a father, a husband and a son who will never come home again.
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