Fire Chief: State's Report Held No Surprises

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BRYAN, Texas - Bryan fire officials say they made several changes within the department well before a report was released detailing what went wrong the night two firefighters lost their lives.

At a press conference Wednesday, Bryan Fire Chief Randy McGregor talked about the report, and even held back tears as he remembered the fire at the Knights of Columbus Hall in February of 2013. Lieutenants Eric Wallace and Gregory Pickard lost their lives, and two other firefighters were seriously injured.

"They gave everything they had to give. Up to and including their lives," said McGregor.

The report from the State Fire Marshal's Office, released on Monday, details what mistakes the fire department made.

"I don't disagree with the report," said McGregor. "The information they collected through interviews and evidence is what made their report. We know that there was a lot more that happened that simply wasn't conveyed to them."

Among other things, the state report claims the fire department didn't have enough staffing, firefighters on scene didn't use the proper equipment to check for hidden dangers within the burning building, and reports about the changing conditions of the fire from inside weren't communicated back to command.

"No surprises for us. We knew from our own investigations what some of the shortcomings were," said McGregor.

Shortly after the fire, the department formed a committee to figure out exactly what went wrong and how they could fix it.

The department has added more firefighters, and from now on will send out extra firefighters and supervisors to structure fires like the one at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

Company officers must now carry thermal imaging cameras, or cameras that can see hidden fires. Something crews didn't do at the Knights of Columbus Hall fire.

The department made several upgrades to their equipment as well, including replacing the 30 minute oxygen tanks with 45 minute tanks.

The state report also said there were no fire protection systems installed at the Knights of Columbus Hall, and the building hadn't been inspected since 2005.

The city has since hired an additional commercial property inspector to help ease the burden of building inspection.

According to the report, fire crews entered the building even though there were no indications anyone was inside.

"To go into a building is not uncommon at all," said McGregor. "Commercial structures do offer some different challenges. Based on the amount of fire that was showing, based on the amount of smoke, this seemed like a fire to walk in to, go put it out and come back out the door."

State Fire Marshal officials said the sacrifice Wallace and Pickard made will have far-reaching and positive affects on fire service around the state and country.

McGregor said he's proud of his department, and stands behind every one of its members.