BRYAN- Bryan firefighters are holding each other a little closer tonight. It was one year ago today that they responded here to the corner of Groesbeck and Palasota. The Knights of Columbus Hall was engulfed in flames. As crews began to battle the flames, the events that unfolded will forever change the lives of four men.
"We have suffered a great loss in our organization," said Bryan Fire Department Chief Randy McGregor.
Two lieutenants, Eric Wallace and Greg Pickard, died from injuries they suffered as they fought the fire. Reportedly, the fire started when that was located in the kitchen of the building had a faulty cord that caught on fire. The flames grew so intense, a portion of the roof of the old building collapsed around the time Lt. Wallace, 36, had started calling for assistance because he was low on oxygen.
Lt. Pickard, Firefighter Ricky Mantey and Probationary Firefighter Mitch Moran had entered the building to help Wallace. A selfless act that changed their lives.
Chief McGregor called it the worst tragedy in the history of the Bryan Fire Department.
"This is the darkest hour in 142 years this organization has been in existance," McGregor said.
There are only two men now who can talk about what happened on that tragic February night.
"They wanted to talk about it some and also they had some answers we were needing as well," he said. "They are two very dedicated men of our department and they take their jobs very serious and they're biggest concerns are they didn't want to let anybody else down."
Today they are still recovering physically and emotionally; with the love and support from the entire community, they continue to heal.
"It has been overwhelming... The extended family, to see the extended family that we have," he said.
McGregor said Mantey and Moran are focused on getting back to work.
"Yes, that's the goal," he said. "They want to be back on the trucks responding to calls."
He said the memory of that call to service will forever resonate in the hearts and minds of the entire department and firefighters everywhere.