Crowd expected at service for Houston firefighters

Associated Press
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File - In this May 31, 2013 file photo a firefighter injured while fighting a fire at the Southwest Inn in Houston is wheeled to an ambulance. Firefighters from across Texas and the nation are joining their colleagues in Houston at a memorial service for four Houston firefighters killed last week in a five-alarm motel fire. As many as 40,000 people are expected Wednesday at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Cody Duty, File) MANDATORY CREDIT

HOUSTON (AP) — Firefighters from Texas and across the nation will join their colleagues in Houston at a memorial service Wednesday for four Houston firefighters killed last week in a massive motel fire.

As many as 40,000 people were expected at Houston's Reliant Stadium to remember the four who died last Friday on the deadliest day in the Houston Fire Department's 118-year history.

The service is expected to be the largest in generations for the nation's fourth-biggest city. Two hours have been set aside for a procession of firefighters into to the stadium grounds for the memorial service.

The four who died were trapped when the burning structure collapsed.

Killed were Capt. Matthew Renaud, 35, who had been with department for 11½ years; engineer operator Robert Bebee, 41, who joined the department almost 12 years ago; firefighter Robert Garner, 29, who joined the department 2½ years ago; and Anne Sullivan, 24, a probationary firefighter who had graduated in April from the Houston Fire Department Academy.

Representatives from each of their families were to speak, along with Houston Mayor Annise Parker, fire agency officials and Fire Chief Terry Garrison, who will present to the families flags that flew over the U.S. Capitol last Friday.

Prayers will be led by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

Investigators at the scene of the five-alarm blaze at the Southwest Inn have said they are focusing on an attic and the kitchen area of a restaurant connected to the motel where the fire spread, causing the structure to collapse.

Deputy Chief Ed Arthur, who heads the department's arson division, said Tuesday he expected the physical examination of the rubble to take about 10 days but a report of the findings could take months.

"The investigation is dedicated to our heroes, our fallen firefighter friends," he said.