Report Details Frightening Last Moments of Bryan Firefighter

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BRYAN, Texas - A lengthy new report from the State Fire Marshal's Office describes the frightening last moments of two Bryan firefighters who lost their lives battling a building fire last year.

The fire broke out February 15 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in the 1500 block of Groesbeck.

Bryan firefighters arrived within minutes, and Lieutenant Eric Wallace, a 12-year-veteran of the department, was one of the first ones inside the burning building.

Low on oxygen, Wallace was separated from his crew. He became disoriented and called for help.

"I'm on the red line. The red hose line. I'm low on air," Wallace said, according to the report.

Fire crews outside tried desperately to guide Wallace to safety.

"Follow the red hose line out, follow the red hose line out," called a commanding officer from outside the building.

"Negative, command. I can't do it," Wallace replied. "I have stuff fall on the hose line, and I'm disoriented on it. Please send help."

Lieutenant Gregory Pickard, one of the firefighters sent in to save Wallace, would also lose his life.

The report from the State Fire Marshal's Office says crews did what they were trained to do, but mistakes were still made.

The report doesn't say why crews decided to enter the burning building, but it does say there were no indications anyone was inside at the time.

The State Fire Marshal's Office says once firefighters entered the building, they failed to recognize the potential for high temperature gases, or flashover conditions. Nor did the firefighters attempt to inspect the ceiling or other concealed spaces for hidden flames using a thermal imaging camera.

The report also says situation reports and key discoveries were not consistently communicated to command so that fire
location, spread, control progress, and other vital information could be monitored and factored into the decision-making process.

State Fire Marshal and the Bryan Fire Department have declined to comment on the report until a scheduled press conference on Wednesday. To read the full report from the State Fire Marshal's Office, click on the link added to this story.