The Fourth of July holiday has been marred by tragedy for the brotherhood of firefighters and many others. An 11-year veteran of the Wharton Fire Department was found dead Sunday morning inside the Maxim Production Inc. building located at 3307 FM 442 where multiple agencies fought a massive overnight blaze.
Captain Thomas Araguz III, 30, was one of three firefighters who made entry and became trapped when the fire rapidly intensified. Two of the three men were able to escape, but Araguz was trapped inside and multiple attempts to locate him were unsuccessful until after daybreak.
At 9:41 PM on Saturday, the Wharton Police Department received a 911 call from Maxim Production Inc. reporting a fire in one of their buildings. The Wharton Police dispatcher then dispatched the Boling Volunteer Fire Department as well as the Wharton Volunteer Fire Department. Both departments arrived on scene at 9:52 PM, and reported heavy smoke and fire. The structure was approximately 25,000 to 30,000 square feet. The building housed offices as well as the egg processing portion of the business, which was their main operation.
The Wharton Fire Department’s second engine made entry approximately 150 ft into the interior in an attempt to stop the progression of the fire. Once inside the three firefighters encountered heavy smoke and heat, and then the heat conditions increased rapidly and the firefighters attempted to back out. Two firefighters were able to escape, but Araguz was trapped inside. Multiple Rapid Intervention Teams, (RIT) were sent in to search for him, but were driven back by the intense heat and flames.
Captain Araguz was found at 7:20 am on Sunday. He was an eleven year veteran of the Wharton Volunteer Fire Department. Captain Araguz leaves behind family members and two small children.
There were 31 fire departments called to assist not only with firefighting operations, but with tanker relay operations. The fire was declared under control at 6:30 AM on the July 4 2010.
The State Fire Marshalls Office has been called in to handle the investigation of the fire. The Texas Department of Public Safety and other law enforcement agencies in the area also responded to the scene.
There will be a press conference at the Wharton Fire Department, located at 319 N. Fulton, in Wharton at 3 p.m. on Sunday.