HOUSTON – Preparations for a memorial service for four Houston firefighters are underway at Reliant Stadium here.
Thousands of fire and rescue personnel from around the country are making their way into the stadium for the 10 a.m. Wednesday service that will be aired live on KHOU.com.
Friday was the most tragic day in Houston Fire Department’s history as they lost Capt. Matthew Renaud, 35, an 11-year veteran of the department; Engineer Operator Robert Bebee, 41, who joined the department almost 12 years ago; Firefighter Robert Garner, 29, who joined the department 12 1/2 years ago and Anne Sullivan, 24, who graduated from the fire academy in April.
Special memories of the firefighters will be shared by family members during the service that may attract as many as 50,000.
The firefighters were killed, and 13 were injured when a roof collapsed while they were searching for victims in a raging motel blaze.
The most seriously injured firefighter – Capt. William Dowling -- remains in a medically induced coma, according to local reports.
Doctors have had to amputate his legs, one below the knee, the other above the knee, his father, Rickie Dowling told KHOU reporters.
The IAFF said they are overwhelmed by the amount of support from firefighters around the world.
"It's just been incredible," said Scott Wilkey, communications director of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association.
In addition to words of comfort and paying for hotel rooms for visiting personnel, fellow firefighters have stepped up to cover shifts so the Houston crews can mourn and attend the service, he said.
Five staging areas for apparatus have been established.