A Smith County fire official said the Jan. 17 fire that injured Lindale firefighter Joe Yeakley and Dixie firefighter Caleb Snider when the garage roof collapsed, is similar to another fire at the same residence in August 2002.
While the investigation into the fire continues, Yeakley remains hospitalized in Parkland Hospital in Dallas where he has undergone several surgeries and will remain for up to five months, Smith County Assistant Fire Marshal Oren Hale said.
Hale said during the most recent fire investigation at 5922 Childress Drive, the homeowner told him he had been smoking in bed while reading a magazine before he got up to watch television.
Hale said the fire on Jan. 17 broke out shortly before 1 a.m., and the homeowner ran for help when he saw flames and smoke from the bedroom where he had been earlier.
“When we looked at the fire in 2002, we found it also started in the bedroom and we were told at the time he had been smoking,” he said.
Hale said the investigation into Yeakley’s injuries have shown he had gone into rear of the garage with another firefighter before the roof collapsed.
But what Hale and firefighters have not been able to answer is why Yeakley went into the fire.
“He has always been one of the most safety conscious firefighters I have known. He has taught at the fire school down at Texas A&M for years and has always practiced safety,” Hale said.
He said Yeakley was the initial command at the fire when he arrived on scene, and firefighters have said Yeakley gave the order to set up a defensive fight and to not enter the building, which was fully involved.
“We know there was no one in the home, but we don’t know why Joe went in after giving the order for a defensive fight. We can only wait until he can tell us,” he said. “We’re all baffled, because he has always been such a stickler for safety.”
Snider suffered burns to his arms and was treated and released the same day.