The funeral for firefighter Scott Deem, who died while fighting a large fire at a Northwestside strip center last week, will take place Friday at Community Bible Church. The service is open to the public, but space and parking will be limited, San Antonio Fire Department officials said.

The church is located at 2477 North Loop 1604. Members of the public can use the Gold Canyon Road and Sonterra Boulevard entrances to enter the church, San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood said Wednesday. Once the 1 p.m. service concludes, there will be a private burial.

A fire equipment apparatus procession that will include firetrucks and other emergency vehicles will leave the Alamodome Lot B at 9 a.m. and make its way on U.S. Highway 281 to Community Bible Church on the city’s far Northside, Hood said. So far SAFD has received calls from fire departments from around Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma that want to participate in the procession.

There also will be a family funeral procession Friday at 11 a.m. that will begin at Porter Loring Mortuary on McCullough Avenue, pass by the Alamo, and make its way to the church.

Hood confirmed Tuesday that any firefighters wishing to attend the funeral can do so. Hood dismissed as unfounded a rumor that some firefighters would have to remain on duty during the services for Deem.

All 300-plus firefighters who work on the A shift, Deem’s former shift, will have Friday off to attend the funeral, Hood told the Rivard Report. Any other firefighters who knew Deem, were in his academy class, or simply wish to pay their respects to their fallen colleague and his family will be permitted to attend.

Hood said he is confident that the fire department has enough staff willing to cover shifts throughout the services, and extra firefighters from other areas would not be needed to assist.

“That’s part of the brotherhood of people working for other people that need to be there,” Hood said, “so we’re completely satisfied with the robust amount of resources that we have in this system to where we’ll provide coverage during the funeral with our own resources.”

Houston Street downtown will briefly shut down Friday, and heavy traffic is expected on northbound U.S. Hwy 281 from 9 a.m. to noon.

A family-only rosary for Deem, who joined SAFD in 2011, is set for Thursday, with a public visitation to follow from 6:30-9 p.m. at Porter Loring.

The services for Deem will be the first for a San Antonio firefighter that Hood and many under his command has had to plan and attend, the chief said. Deem, 31, was the first local firefighter to die while fighting a blaze in 20 years, according to the SA Professional Firefighters Association. He left behind his pregnant wife, Jennifer, and two children.

Deem and the rest of Ladder 35 responded to a fire that broke out at the Ingram Square strip mall – with tenants that include cosmetology school the Milan Institute, Computer Repair Plus, Spartan Gym, and the Texas Thrift Store – a little after 9 p.m. Thursday night, according to officials. They conducted a search of the building when they arrived on scene, during which Deem got lost in the flame-engulfed structure and died.

Deem’s official cause of death has not yet been made public, Hood said.

He is leading a “comprehensive” investigation of the incident in which investigators are analyzing the cause of the fire, Deem’s death, and the operational aspects of the firefighters’ response to the blaze.

Investigators conducted interviews Sunday with each of the firefighters who responded to Thursday’s fire to gather information about “what they did, what they saw, what they encountered” at the scene, Hood said. Each firefighter involved, including the chief, has had to fill out an eight-page questionnaire about the incident. So far, there has been no indication that proper SAFD procedures involving the firefighting strategies and tactics were not followed, Hood said.

Officials are still examining the 86,289 square-foot strip center to determine what the cause of the fire was. Lightning over the weekend stalled those efforts, Hood said, so “we’re a ways away from actually being able to publish what the cause was of the fire.”

Two other firefighters were injured in the blaze as part of efforts to search for and rescue Deem. Brad Phipps remains in critical condition at the San Antonio Military Medical Center and is “being surrounded by his family, members of the fire department, and members of the volunteer fire department he works for,” Hood said. “He’s being treated by some of the best burn doctors and nurses in the world.”

Robert Vasquez, who sustained minor injuries, was released from the hospital on Friday.

San Antonio firefighter Scott Deem.
San Antonio firefighter Scott Deem. Credit: Facebook

Deem’s death has rattled the San Antonio fire department, members of which see each other as family. It’s been a great challenge, Hood said, and has served as a reminder of the grave peril firefighters face each time they respond to an emergency call.

He asked that the community continue to support Deem’s family and those of the injured firefighters. The public can make donations to Deem’s family at any Generations Federal Credit Union location. For electronic deposits, the account number is 1000001554997 and the routing number is 314088572. Donations also are being taken at the credit union for Vasquez and Phipps. There’s also a crowdfunding campaign for Phipps here.

“We are hanging in there,” Hood said. “… We’re in a life storm, so we’re still in the water. We’ve got life preservers on, and we’re trying to wait for the clouds to lift.

“But we’re maintaining.”

Camille Garcia

Camille Garcia is a journalist born and raised in San Antonio. She formerly worked at the San Antonio Report as assistant editor and reporter. Her email is camillenicgarcia@gmail.com

Rocío Guenther

Rocío Guenther worked as a bilingual reporter and editorial assistant for the Rivard Report from June 2016 to October 2017. She is originally from Guadalajara, Mexico and holds a bachelor's in English...