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3 Firefighters Die in Texas Blaze

February 16, 1999

LAKE WORTH, Texas (AP) _ A wind-whipped fire destroyed a church Monday, killing three firefighters who were trapped when the roof collapsed and injuring three others.

The three were apparently trapped in rubble after the collapse, fire officials said. Investigators believe the fire was deliberately set.

``At one point, it was billowing smoke, everything was covered _ the whole sky, and the flames kept moving toward the front of the building. The wind has been ferocious like this forever,″ said witness Kevin Schreiber, who works across the street from the church. ``The roof all of the sudden just buckled.″

Lt. Kent Worley of the Fort Worth Fire Department said the fire started in the back of the Precious Faith Temple and spread to the attic. The cause of the fire was being investigated.

Crews attacked areas of rubble where the missing firefighters were believed to be and finally reached the bodies more than two hours after the collapse.

``Even though we are firefighters, we have to go on doing our business as best we can,″ Worley said. ``We’re all human. ... It’s not going to be an easy process.″

Two of the victims, Brian Collins, 35, and Phillip Dean, 29, were Fort Worth firemen who were volunteering for a suburban fire department on their day off. The third victim, 19-year-old Gary Sanders, was a fireman from nearby Sansom Park.

The three firefighters who were injured had been on the roof. One was hospitalized in serious condition; the other two were in good or stable condition.

Dozens of firefighters from Lake Worth and nearby fire departments were called to the scene. Police blocked off streets around the church, and helicopters hovered overhead.

Lake Worth is a suburb of Fort Worth.

Update hourly