Exterior "Alpha" side of Spartan Box Gym, post fire . (Photo by DSFM Sgt. H. Mahlmann)
On May 18, 2017, at 9:12 p.m., the San Antonio Fire Department (SAFD) responded to a structure fire located in the 6700 Block of Ingram Road, San Antonio, Texas (Ingram Plaza/Spartan Box Gym) that was reported by a passerby. SAFD Ladder 35 (L35)and Engine 35 (E35) arrived on scene and observed smoke inside the Spartan Box Gym. Firefighters made forcible entry into the business through the front doors. E35 crew was assigned suppression and L35 firefighters Scott Deem and Brad Phipps were assigned to search the Spartan Box Gym.
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Firefighter Fatality Investigation FFF FY 17-02
Firefighter Scott Deem, San Antonio Fire Department
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San Antonio Firefighter Killed in Fire
San Antonio Chief Provides Update on Firefighter’s Death
Fallen San Antonio Firefighter Laid to Rest
During their search, Firefighter (FF) Deem and FF Phipps located the fire and called for a hose line. Conditions rapidly worsened andFF Phipps declared a “Mayday.” Efforts were focused on their rescue. Several Rapid Intervention Teams (RIT) made entry in an attempt to locate the firefighters. FF Robert Vasquez became separated from his Rapid Intervention Team while searching for Firefighters Phipps and Deem.
FF Phipps and FF Vasquez were located and extricated. FF Phipps sustained life threatening injuries and was transported to San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC). FF Vasquez suffered minor injuries and was transportedand later released from an area hospital. Continued attempts to contact FF Deem or to hear a Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) device were unsuccessful. Conditions worsened and rescue operations were halted. Defensive tactics were utilized to suppress the fire. A secondary search was conducted and FF Deem was eventually found deceased inside the gym. FF Phipps was released from the hospital on August 1, 2017, to continue his recovery at home.
The Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office Firefighter Fatality Coordinator was notified of the incident and responded and the SFMO State Response Team was dispatched. This death is classified as a Line of Duty Death (LODD) and based on a thorough analysis. The circumstances surrounding the death of FF Deem, severe injury of FF Phipps, and injury of FF Vasquez were preventable.
The actions leading to the findings in this report collectively led to the tragedy at this incident. The goal of this report is to challenge the San Antonio Fire Department to meet national fire service best practices identified in the recommendations to minimizerisk exposure to the men and women of the SAFD. That path will honor the memory of FF Deem and take a good fire department to an even higher level of performance.