Two Texas firefighters died and two others were seriously injured battling a fire that engulfed a Knights of Columbus lodge near College Station, an official said Saturday.
Eric Wallace, 36, and Greg Pickard, 54, both fire department lieutenants in the central Texas city of Bryan, died fighting the blaze that broke out before midnight Friday, city spokeswoman Mary Lynne Stratta said.
Wallace, a 13-year veteran, was among the first rescuers that rushed into the lodge looking for occupants. He broadcast over his radio that he was running low on oxygen. When he did not come out of the building a few minutes later, Pickard and two other Bryan firefighters rushed inside to look for him. They, too, were overcome by the smoke.
Another team went in and pulled the four men out, Stratta said.
Wallace died at the scene. Pickard, a 32-year veteran of the department, died in the burn unit of a local hospital Saturday, Stratta said. The two other men remained in serious but stable condition.
The Texas State Fire Marshal's office is assisting in the investigation and still hasn’t determined the cause of the fire.
“There are no words to express our grief at the loss,” Fire Chief Randy McGregor said at a news conference Saturday. “These four courageous individuals represent the best of the profession and are true heroes in every sense of the word."
The tragedy has rocked the city, which is located near Texas A&M.
“It had been 35 years last week since we lost our only other firefighter in the line of duty,” Stratta said. “I, personally, feel like I’m having a bad dream. But nobody has slept.”