SAN ANTONIO -- From a tactical perspective, firefighters at Friday afternoon’s Studio 6 motel fire at Highway 281 and Rhapsody were forced into a defensive position.
The flames started on the first floor, spread to the attic then jumped to another building.
Nonstop sirens blared as up to 30 mile-an-hour winds sent the already out-of-control flames shooting through the motel.
“It’s something we train for,” Fire Chief Charles Hood said.
That training was put to the test when the fire started to win.
“Found the floors were spongy,” Chief Hood said. “Fire was in the attic.”
Chief Hood isn’t sure if the building had firewalls, but even if it did, he said it wouldn’t have mattered.
"With the winds, even if you have firewalls, if somebody puts a cable hole – every little breach of a firewall for cable, electric, whatever is going to be a void,” Chief Hood said. “So that firewall's not intact anymore."
He explained as firefighters chased the flames to the top floor, the entire building became extremely unstable from the heat.
“We had crews call for a mayday,” Chief Hood said.
The call went out when the back side of the building collapsed around firefighters.
"That's one of those moments when your heart just goes to your feet because we have reports of firefighters trapped,” Chief Hood said.
Crews feared the worst but fortunately, every firefighter made it out safely.
Engines full of crews waited in the wings, ready to go at a moment’s notice.
"We have about 100 firefighters out here,” Chief Hood said. “We're going to end up going through all of them at some point during this evening."
And at some point, nature wins – and Chief Hood says firefighters can’t save the building. They have to let it burn and be grateful everyone lived to tell the story.