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Posted July 5, 2010 EST

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Wharton Firefighter Thomas Araguz III Killed In Egg Farm Blaze
United States (Texas) - Wharton firefighters early Sunday recovered the body of a fellow volunteer hours after he became trapped while battling a massive blaze at an egg farm just outside Boling that took scores of firefighters all night to extinguish. Thomas Araguz III, 30, recently had been promoted to captain at the Wharton Volunteer Fire Department and left behind a wife and two sons, ages 7 and 9, Deputy State Fire Marshal Jay Evans said.

"He was a leader, one of those people who always gave 100 percent," Evans said. "He didn't know what 'back-up' meant. He was highly thought of, and he was a responsible firefighter."

A Wharton native, Araguz had been with the department for 11 years.

Investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing. Evans said there were no obvious signs to indicate what may have sparked the blaze.

The blaze is being investigated by the state fire marshal's office, as well as the Texas Department of Public Safety. As is routine in all firefighter line-of-duty deaths, the incident also will be investigated by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

More than 100 visitors milled about Araguz's firehouse Sunday, paying tribute to him, Evans said. His fellow firefighters were so emotional, there was little discussion about his death, he said.

"They would say a few words to each other, but they were very upset," Evans said. "I've seen a lot of people choking back tears."

More than 150 firefighters from 31 departments fought the blaze, which broke out around 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the Maxim Production Co., an egg farm in the 3300 block of FM 442, about 11 miles east of Wharton and three miles from Boling, Evans said. It was about 6:30 a.m. Sunday before they had the blaze under control.

Fire roared through the 250-foot long, 25,000-square-foot building, which housed the company's administrative offices and processing operation, where eggs were placed in cartons. Chickens were not housed in the building, the company said.

Evans said heavy smoke and deteriorating conditions prompted Araguz and two other firefighters to begin retreating from the building. The other two firefighters escaped, but Araguz became trapped and did not make it outside. Intense heat kept firefighters from entering the building to save Araguz, whose body was discovered about 7:20 a.m. Sunday.

Maxim, a Texas company that sells eggs across the state, said it has another processing operation to respond to customers' needs.

Written by Houston Chronicle

Courtesy of YellowBrix - YellowBrix


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