Thursday, December 1, 2016


By Juan Montoya
The Fire Marshal Section of the City of Brownsville Fire Department report has issued its findings on the fire that caused more than $100,000 in damages to the B-Metro Intermodal Terminal and found that the accidental blaze was caused by the wrong electrical box placed outside the building's cupola for lighting.
It also found that the fire alarm panel was reg-tagged on December 2014, January 2015, and was red-tagged at the time of the fire and  has a current red tag today.

According to the Texas Fire Inspection Code, the red tag is placed on a system if it is impaired, faulty or inoperable. It has been two years since the fire alarm panel at the terminal has been red tagged, meaning that the fire-alarm panel system has been out of compliance with state fire inspection codes since December 2014.

Although the cause of the Nov. 26 fire has been determined to be "accidental" the conclusion makes it clear that the wrong electrical box was allowed to be placed outside of the cupola at the mercy of the elements that eventually led to the mishap.

In the report, Fire Marshal Daniel Villarreal states that "It is (my) opinion...the only source of possible ignition was electrical, because of the metal box instead of a weather-resistance box was used outside exposed to the elements it caused the box to rust letting rain in causing an electrical short close to the electrical box powering the outside lighting." (See graphic, click to enlarge).

The ground-breaking ceremony for the new Brownsville Intermodal Terminal was held on Dec. 2009. It was built, in part, with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funds. Mayor Tony Martinez and commissioner Rose Gowen were instrumental in requesting an additional $1.5 million from the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation to cover unexpected cost overruns.

The completed $31.3 million project started operating in 2009.

The fire marshal's report raises more questions than it answers. Did the contractor, Carlos Marin's Ambiotec, know that the wrong material box had been placed by its electrical subcontractors outside the cupola at the mercy of the elements? Did the construction supervisor, Spawglass, know that the box was a potential fire hazard but installed it nonetheless?

And, most importantly, did the city inspectors give the contractor supervisor – and BUS Metro – the go-ahead to have the workers install the incorrect material electric box there?

A local businessman who sells electric components to manufacturers on both sides of the Rio Grande says that the fire should have never happened and its spread would have been prevented if the electrical box was correctly installed and connected to breakers which would have jumped and stopped the flow of electricity to the box.

"You don't put a metal electric box outside where it could get wet and cause a short circuit," he said. "Why were they allowed to do it?"

Although damages to the terminal's cupola is estimated at $100,300 to replace, we're sure this does not include labor costs to demolish the burned part, specialty construction materials and other incidentals that will surely raise the price past the quarter million dollar mark. And will the city's insurance carrier fork over the money now that it has been revealed that the contractor, the contract supervisor, and the city building inspectors allowed the unsafe condition to exist?

Some of the players have moved on since then. Marin's Ambiotec continues to monopolize city contracts. Rene Capsitran, formerly South Texas President of  Spawglass Contractors, has since left his company to form Noble Texas Builders and snare municipal and county construction jobs. His board of directors includes "talented" people like Eddie Lucio III as legal counsel and supporters like Ramiro Garza, and Ruben Gallegos Jr.


Anonymous said...

Seems to me that this one falls on Chief Elizondo. The buck stops with him and he should be fired! What other buildings in town are at the same risk? Elizondo needs to go. TODAY!!!

BobbyWC said...

Well also Ernesto Gamez, why did his inspectors give a green tag during the inspection after installation?

I can say with 100% certainty Gamez and his staff are clueless on this issue. I am working with the state over my new 200 v 150 utility box. The city cleared it to remain in a bedroom closet. Other cities require if you change the box it cannot be inside a bedroom closet. The state seems to be of the same opinion, but the city of Brownsville approved it.

Once the State gives me a final opinion then it will be for the electrician to fix. they assured me it would be in compliance in the closet. is that because they knew city inspectors have no idea what they are doing.

I do not know who is right, but the city needs to review the qualifications of everyone in the permits department and insure they are properly trained on these utility boxes. This fire clearly shows they are not.

Bobby WC

Diego Lee Rot said...

I'm glad they were able to save all of downtown from burnin. That's the only downtown we gots.

Anonymous said...

There is another angle you should look at: After the system has been red tagged the inspecting firm has 72 hours to notify the AHJ, in this case the FM office.
It is the FM office obligation to contact the owner and issue a repair order and follow up. Should the order go ignored the FM office is obligated to shutdown the bidling until it has been brought to compliance., Fire Alarm rules, 28 TAC § 34.600.

Anonymous said...

Bola de pendejos, todo por el compadrismo.

Anonymous said...

Quit putting Spanish mission style titties on buildings in Brownsville. If it is some effect to try to look quaintly historical, it is someone else's quaint history. It was never ours.

Anonymous said...

Bobby get your facts correct:
Ernesto is the attorney

Anonymous said...

Building permits,COB, and the hits just keep on coming!

Ben said...

Very Simple, only possible fire cause was electrical. No inspector is going up 30-40 feet to inspect electrical boxes. They rely on the pre-approved plan submitted to the committee for plan review which consists of representation from all affected city departments. In these plans, contractors specify what equipment they will use. Of course, only approved electrical boxes are stipulated in these plans. Between the plan submittal and the actual installation, there was a cost cutting move on the part of the electrical contractor. Ergo, the ensuing fire.

Anonymous said...

Marshall Daniel Villarreal is the biggest dummy and asshole in our department. The city should get rid of this unprofessional and big ego turd. Nobody including likes this guy who thinks his shit doesn't stink. Our department and citizens deserves better than this asshole.

Anonymous said...

Ta tonto "el lurch" Villarreal