San Benito Funeral Home Fire Likely Sparked by Incinerator
SAN BENITO - San Benito fire investigators are trying to determine why a flue on an incinerator at a funeral home overheated and caught the building on fire.
A fire broke out at Thomae-Garza Funeral Home on the 300 block of Sam Houston Blvd at about 9:30 p.m. on Monday, causing heavy damage to the structure.
San Benito Fire Chief Raul Zuniga said the full extent of the damage is still unknown.
Resident Irma Garcia said it was just another Monday night until she noticed a smell of smoke filled the air and sirens blared near her home.
“I opened the door and I told my daughter something is burning at the funeral home… I got real scared,” she said.
Garcia said her son and grandson have worked as morticians at the funeral home. She said she personally knows the owner and felt for him.
“He’s very careful with his business. When my son used to work there, I knew if a hurricane was coming or bad weather. He was always calling to keep an eye on this or that,” she said.
People whose loved ones were being treated for proper burial in the building were also worried about the fire. Amongst them was a fallen Brownsville firefighter.
Authorities said funeral staff had to rush to safely transport the bodies to other funeral locations.
Brownsville Fire Chief Carlos Elizondo, who responded to the scene, said crews helped make sure his colleague’s body was out of the fire safely.
“It hit home when you actually saw his father and his brother, who is actually one of my deputy chiefs, here,” he said. “For the most part, you don’t want to hear bad news. They’ve already heard it once they don’t want to hear it a second time.”
In a statement, city officials stated the origin of the blaze was tracked back to the incinerator. It also said fire crews from Brownsville and Harlingen helped put out the fire that burned for almost five hours.
Elizondo said the preliminary investigation deemed there wasn’t anything suspicious about the blaze.
“Things do fail, things happen. I don’t think anything was done out of the ordinary,” he said. “It’s a freak accident. Unfortunately, it happened at a funeral home.”
Workers at a nearby flower shop doing arrangements for a funeral on Thursday said they haven’t been told of any venue changes.
Thomae-Garza Funeral Home in San Benito will remain closed on Tuesday.
The San Benito Fire Department continues to investigate the case.