Houston's Line of Duty Firefighters
 
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Esker Jackson Rogers


Born:  May 18, 1906, in Buckholts, Texas

Died:  August 22, 1934, at age 28

24th HFD Line of Duty Death
Entered the Fire Department:  September 1929

Assignment:  Pipe and Ladderman-Fire House No. 17

Buried:  Rosewood Cemetery, Section 20, Plot 90, Space 2

The day of his accident, Esker was assigned to Fire House 17 and off duty. He was asked by a friend, who was assigned to Fire House 24  to work his shift. Just as

Esker relived his friend, Engine 24 was dispatched to a call from a fire alarm box and was involved in a collision with a streetcar at Leeland Street and Jackson

Street. The streetcar pulled in front of Engine 24 at the intersection. To avoid hitting the streetcar the driver turned sharply. The fire truck slid sideways and

slammed into the side of the streetcar. Esker was crushed between the streetcar and the fire truck. He was transported to the nearby St. Joseph Infirmary where he

died later that evening. His Captain, Merle London and two of the firefighters, Julius" Bubba" Arto and Willie Cross were seriously injured. The passengers and

operator of the
streetcar were not injured.


After being relived, his friend walked to the bus stop to head home and heard the crash, which was a few blocks away. Esker Rogers was
survived by his wife Jewel

and three young children. 


 

Charles Roland Rusk


Born:  June 3, 1880, in Akron, Ohio

Died:  June 8, 1932, at age 52

23rd HFD Line of Duty Death
Entered the Fire Department:  April 24, 1918

Assignment:  Pipe and Ladderman-Fire House No. 14

Buried:  Hollywood Cemetery, Section K, Space 105

Charles Rusk, a 14 year veteran, died when Ladder 14 struck a streetcar at the intersection of 17th Street and Yale Street, just a few blocks from Fire House No. 14. Rusk was transported to the Heights Clinic where attempts to save his life failed. Three firefighters were injured along with two passengers and the streetcar operator.
 

Because of his failing eyesight Charles had been off work since November 21, 1931 and was due to retire. In May of 1932 he regained his eyesight and had just returned to duty on May 8th, exactly one month prior to his death.
 

His son, Raymond, entered the Houston Fire Department 8 years after his father’s death, and retired in 1976 after 36 years of service.


Alfred Henry Schutze


Born:  September 22, 1887, in Bastrop, Texas

Died:  August 21, 1938, at age 50

25th HFD Line of Duty Death
Entered the Fire Department:  November 5, 1917

Assignment:  Battalion Chief-Fire House No. 7

Buried:  Hollywood Cemetery, Section J, Plot 4, Space 1

Chief Schutze, a 21 year veteran, was dispatched to a garage apartment fire at 2021 Bolsover Street near Hazard Street. He died when his apparatus hit an esplanade in the 5100 block of Main Street and Southmore Boulevard.

 

The accident was at night, the amber warning light at the esplanade was not working. This caused the driver of the apparatus to be unable to see the obstruction. The firefighters on the apparatus were seriously injured and the  driver received minor injuries. Chief Schutze was transported to Methodist Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

 

Tommy Wayne Searcy


Born:  January 5, 1975, in Houston, Texas
 

Died:  September 8, 2020 at age 45
75
TH HFD Line of Duty Death
Entered the Houston Fire Department:  August 12, 2002, Class 14 2002 
Assignment:  Captain-Fire House No. 67 “A” Shift
Buried:  Kline Memorial Park, Pinehurst, Texas, Section N, Lot 103, Space 4

Captain Tommy Searcy, an 18 year veteran of HFD, lost his life to COVID-19 virus.

 

He is the third Houston Fire Fighter and the 84th in the United States to pass away from the COVID-19 virus as a line of duty death in 2020.


Tommy and his family received an amazing amount of support from around the world, including help from the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 341 and Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. They were instrumental in getting access to an experimental drug that helped Tommy’s body fight the virus while he was in The Woodlands Memorial Hermann's ICU.

 

He proudly served the community for over 25 years with several fire departments in the Houston area including Bellaire, Lufkin, Magnolia, and Westfield, where he

became Assistant Chief. Tommy received multiple awards and commendations of valor from both the Westfield Fire Department and the Houston Fire Department.

In 2019 his direct actions at a house fire helped save the life of a fellow Houston Firefighter. Captain Searcy was universally respected for his honor, pride and tradition in the fire service.

 

Tommy was immensely proud of and survived by his three daughters Kaylin, Kirsta, and Kinley. He is also survived by his parents Harold and Sin Chae Searcy, older brother Terry Searcy, and his twin brother HFD Captain Tony Searcy.

 

Forever Brave, Never Give Up, as in the words of Captain Tommy Searcy...


                                        "Come On, Let's do this"


 Delbert Harvey Sherfy

 
Born:  April 19, 1913, in Houston, Texas

Died:  October 31, 1954-Halloween, at age 41
39
th HFD Line of Duty Death

Entered the Fire Department:  June 25, 1941

Assignment:  Chauffeur-Fire House No. 17

Buried:  Cleveland Memorial Cemetery, Cleveland, Texas, Lot 103, Space 4

Delbert Sherfy was part of the crew of Engine 17 dispatched to wash down fuel at an accident. On the way to the scene, the fire apparatus collided with a passenger car at Canal Street and Sampson Street. Delbert died at the scene, both occupants of the car, and four firefighters were injured. 

 

Delbert’s Grandfather, Henry Donnelly, served the Houston Fire Department for 50 years from 1895 to 1945. When Henry retired, he was 78. Before Henry joined the ranks of the Houston Fire Department, he was a paid driver for the Volunteer Curtin 9 Hose Company. Delbert’s uncle, Eddie, also served from 1923 to 1945.

 

Kimberly Ann Smith
 
Born:  November 20, 1969, in El Paso, Texas

Died:  February 14, 2000-Valentine’s Day, at age 30
55
th HFD Line of Duty Death

Entered the Fire Department:  April 11, 1994, Class 94A

Assignment:  Firefighter-Fire House No. 76 “C” Shift

Buried:  Mt. Calvary Catholic Cemetery, Refugio, Texas, Far left corner, Between her Grand Parents Beatrice and Lewis Zarsky

Kim Smith died with her crew member Lewis Mayo. At 0433 hours Engine 76 responded to a fire in a McDonald’s Restaurant, 12602 Bissonnet Street and Dairy View Lane, less than a mile from their quarters. Upon arrival, Engine 76 reported that fire was coming from the roof of the restaurant. The crew of Engine 76 entered the building and started to advance the hose line to the back of the restaurant. The section of the roof that contained the air condition units collapsed, trapping and injuring Lewis. Kim, also trapped, was able to free herself and head toward the back door of the building.

 

Kim was found deceased six feet from the back door. Lewis was rescued and transported to Hermann Hospital where efforts to save him failed. The fire was arson, started by four males attempting to break into the office safe. When unable to open the safe, they set the office on fire. All four men were convicted of multiple crimes with sentences ranging from 2 to 35 years.


Kim won first place in the 1998 Western Regional Firefighter Combat Challenge. She is the Houston Fire Department’s first female line of duty death. 


James Magerson “Mag” Smith

Born:  August 23, 1891, in Taylor, Texas

Died:  February 9, 1929, at age 37
16
th HFD Line of Duty Death

Entered the Fire Department:  May 4, 1920

Assignment:  Pipe and Ladderman-Fire House No. 10
Buried:  Evergreen Cemetery, Section B2, Plot 56, Space 4

James died while hooking up a hose line to a fire hydrant during a house fire at 2704 Congress Avenue near Dowling Street. As Engine 10 was laying a hose line, a hose couple hung up in the hose bed. The hose couple at the hydrant was pulled away striking Smith in the head, killing him instantly. A crew member was at the hydrant helping Smith, he escaped injury.

 

Smith first entered the Houston Fire Department in 1908 at age 17. In 1913, after 5 years of service, he resigned. He was rehired in 1920 and had continuous service until his death. His brother,William, entered the Houston Fire Department in 1924 and served the citizens of Houston for 40 years. 

 

 Joseph James “Joe” Solito

 
Born:  August 24, 1914, in Lake Charles, Louisiana

Died:  July 29, 1953, at age 38

36th HFD Line of Duty Death
Entered the Fire Department:  1938

Assignment:  Driver-Fire House No. 8

Buried:  Forest Park Cemetery, Lawndale, Gethsemane 50, Plot 6, Space 6

Joe Solito, died with Fidel Chabolla, in a collision between Engine 8 and Ladder 1. The fire alarm box at Gable Street and MKT Railroad transmitted an alarm. Events led to the collision of these two apparatus at the intersection of Preston Street and Crawford Street. Engine 10 was the first due company; they were on another assignment and were replaced by Engine 8. Ladder 1 had trouble starting and was delayed leaving quarters. This put both trucks in the intersection at the same time. Seven firefighters were injured in the accident. Joe was transported to St. Joseph Hospital where efforts to revive him failed.


This is the same intersection where Frank Catino died five months later on January 7, 1954. The same building on the corner, the Southern Electric Supply Company at 1605 Preston Street was damaged in both accidents. The “Houston Chronicle” dubbed it the “Death Corner”.


Kenneth Dale "Kenny" Stavinoha


Born:  April 13, 1983, in Houston, Texas
Died:  September 21, 2019 at age 36
72nd HFD
Line of Duty Death
Entered the Houston Fire Department:  March 8, 2018, Class 2018A

Assignment:  Firefighter-Fire House No. 27 “A” Shift
Buried:  Klein Memorial Park, Tomball, Texas, Section L, Lot 325, Space 2

On September 21, 2019, the day Ken passed away he was wanting to stay busy as usual.  He asked if he could cut the grass because the grass had not been cut the day before. Ken would be seen throughout the day weed eating and mowing just trying to stay busy.  District Chief 19 would come by as he often did just to talk and Ken came in to visit with the Chief. After the Chief left and not hearing from Ken in a while, he would be found by Captain Flores unconscious and unresponsive behind Fire House 27. It would later be discovered that he had suffered a major heart attack, which claimed his life.

 

Ken grew up in Houston and graduated from Scarborough High School class of 2002. Ken was a “doer” and always gave his best at whatever task required of him. Obstacles in life shaped the person he grew up to be: a hardworking man of courage. One of his many admirable qualities was his passion for fixing things, especially cars. Aside from his love for cars, he also enjoyed fishing, surfing, hunting and of course racing, especially his Toyota Supra. Ken worked in the printing industry for 16 years. In 2016 the company closed the doors due to financial difficulties and Ken lost his job. He graduated from the Val Jahnke Training Facility in March 8, 2018 Class A. His first assignment was Fire House 19 “A” Shift. After completing his probationary period, he was assigned to Fire House 27 “A” Shift.

Ken’s strength, tall stature and tough shell could have made you feel intimidated, but to all those who truly knew him, he will always be remembered as a kind, gentle giant with a good soul. His unwavering dedication to his job, and his love to help others will always be a cherished memory of him.                                           
                                                                                                                                         Written by Captain Joe Flores and Jessica Stavinoha
  


Anne McCormick "Punky" Sullivan

Born:  December 4, 1988, in Houston, Texas

Died:  May 31, 2013, at age 24
64
th HFD Line of Duty Death

Entered the Fire Department:  April 11, 2013, Class 2013A

Assignment:  Firefighter-Fire House No. 68 “A” Shift

Buried:  Glenwood Cemetery, Section C, Fireman’s Plot, Plot 98, West Half

Anne, died along with Matt Renaud, Bobby Bebee and Robert Garner while fighting a fire at the Southwest Inn, 6855 Southwest Freeway at Hornwood Drive. The fire started in the Bhojan Indian Restaurant, which was in the front of the motel complex. Just 15 minutes after crews arrived, the roof collapsed, trapping five firefighters. Before the rescuers were able to reach the firefighters, a second ceiling collapsed, trapping all of the rescuers. They were able to escape the collapse along with Captain Dowling, one of the five trapped firefighters. 

 

Anne graduated on April 11, 2013 from the Val Jahnke Training Facility. She had worked 11 shifts before her death. She was a member of the Community Volunteer Fire Department and the Stafford Volunteer Fire Department.


Rufus John "Bullock" Templet

Born:  October 4, 1894, in New Iberia, Louisiana

Died:  March 12, 1951, at age 56

33rd HFD Line of Duty Death
Entered the Fire Department:  January 1, 1922

Assignment:  Captain-Fire House No. 5

Buried:  Forest Park Cemetery, Westheimer, Catacombs, Section 54, Plot 497, Space 12

Captain Templet, a 29 year veteran, suffered a heart attack while fighting a multiple alarm fire on January 31, 1951. He was transported to Veterans Administration Hospital where he died two months later. The fire involved the Alaskan Fur Factory at 600 Main Street and Texas Avenue and two other business, the National Shirt Shop and Shaw’s Jewelry Store. All three businesses were heavily damaged. This fire was especially difficult due to the freezing, icy weather which kept the smoke close to the ground. The fire was also responsible for the death of Joseph Connor. Rufus Templet was known as a dedicated firefighter and often responded to alarms off duty. His wife, Lottie, was responsible for starting what became the Ladies Auxiliary Club  


Emil “Ed” Thompson


Born:  1868, in Sweden

Died:  April 27, 1899, at age 31
1
st HFD Line of Duty Death

Entered the Fire Department:  January 1, 1897

Assignment:  Pipe and Ladderman-Hose Company No. 5

Buried:  Glenwood Cemetery, Section C, Fireman’s Plot, Plot 98, East Half

Emil Thompson died after being ran over by a Texas Central Railway train. The crew was responding to a house fire on Crockett Street. Houston Avenue was the fastest route, but was not always the best, especially after rain. The driver took a different route to avoid Houston Avenue. Hose Wagon 5 was attempting to cross the railroad tracks at Hickory Street, which had an unusually steep grade and a blind spot. The Hose Wagon was already on the tracks when the driver realized they were in danger of being hit by the oncoming locomotive pushing cars toward them. The driver shouted at the well-trained horses and was able avoid being hit by the train cars. The crew members in the back feared they would not clear the crossing in time and began jumping. Thompson was the last man off and fell backward into the path of the train where he died instantly.


Herman Joseph “Dutch” Wagner

Born:  June 2, 1871, in Chicago, Illinois

Died:  May 25, 1912, at age 40
6
th HFD Line of Duty Death

Entered the Fire Department:  September 21, 1895

Assignment:  Captain-Washington No. 8

Buried:  Washington Cemetery (Glenwood Cemetery), Section D, Plot 2, Space 4

Captain Wagner, a 17 year veteran, was struck by a heavy timber while fighting a fire at the six story Stowers Furniture Building on 701 Main Street between Rusk Street and Capitol Street, Sunday May 19th. The fire destroyed a whole city block including three adjacent buildings. He was transported to St. Joseph Infirmary, where he fought valiantly for his life for six days. After surgery was performed in a final attempt to save his life, he never regained consciousness.  

A local newspaper dubbed the incident “The Million Dollar Fire”. Captain Wagner had remarked to his wife one day when they were downtown that the Stowers Building was dangerous and would someday kill a firefighter. He never thought the firefighter would be himself.

 

Captain Wagner was one of the first firefighters hired when the City of Houston went from a volunteer department to a paid department in September of 1895.


Walter William “Molly” Walker

 

Born:  October 23, 1881, in Millican, Texas

Died:  July 1, 1940, at age 58

26th HFD Line of Duty Death
Entered the Fire Department:  March 1, 1914

Assignment:  Driver-Fire House No. 2
Buried:  Hollywood Cemetery, Peaceful Valley, Plot 98, Space 5

Molly’s assignment at Fire House No. 2 was driving the reserve engine the crew nicknamed “The Bulldog”. The brand name of the truck was Mack and the Mack Truck Company used a small hood ornament shaped like a bulldog as their company symbol.


The day of the accident, December 6, 1938 was Molly’s day off but he took the place of a fellow firefighter named Hearn Hooker, who wanted that day off. Molly and “The Bulldog” were sent to Fire House No. 17 for the day while their apparatus was at the repair shop for maintenance. While responding to a fire call, they hit a city bus at Harrisburg Street and Sampson Street. Molly was injured along with several firefighters. Molly sustained a blood clot, back then there not much the doctors could do. He was sent home and died as a result of his injuries 19 months later.

 

His fellow firefighters gave him the nickname, “Molly Cottontail”, when he began raising rabbits behind Fire House No. 3. “Molly Cottontail”, through time was cut short to “Molly”. The nickname had become so much a part of him, his wife chose to have the name “Molly” engraved on his headstone.  

 
James Louis Walls Jr.


Born:  March 8, 1945, in Elizabeth City, Virginia

Died:  May 3, 1971, at age 26

47th HFD Line of Duty Death
Entered the Fire Department:  May 5, 1969, Class 69D

Assignment:  Pipe and Ladderman-Fire House No. 51 “A” Shift

Buried:  Memorial Oaks Cemetery, Section 7, Plot 61, Space 2

James Walls died while driving Ambulance 1128 that was struck by a passenger vehicle at the intersection of Chimney Rock Road and Westheimer Road. At this point in time the Houston Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Service, which began providing service on April 1, 1971, had 21 light duty Dodge vans in service. The small size of the van was found to be a contributing factor in the death of Walls. Soon after the accident the HFD purchased 22 heavy duty modular ambulances.

The news media soon dubbed these units as “an emergency room on wheels”.


Michael James Ward Jr.


Born:  January 2, 1895, in Evansville, Indiana

Died:  December 21, 1929, at age 34

22nd HFD Line of Duty Death
Entered the Fire Department:  January 1, 1929

Assignment:  Pipe and Ladderman-Fire House No. 14
Buried:  St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery, Evansville, Indiana, Section 9, Lot 69, Space 5

Michael Ward died with his friend Aaron O’Brien when Engine 19 was dispatched to a house fire at Quitman Street and Clark Street. When crossing the double railroad tracks at Gregg Street, a short distance from Fire House No. 19, they were hit by a Southern Pacific Railroad locomotive. Buildings at the crossing obstructed the view of an oncoming train and the red lights and the swinging arm at the crossing were not operating. O’Brien died instantly and Ward was transported to Memorial Baptist Hospital where he died the next day. Four crew members were injured and transported to local hospitals.

 

He had been visiting Aaron at the fire house and went on the call with them.

 

Steven Reid Whitfield  II


Born:  March 17, 1984, in Beaumont, Texas
Died:  March 31, 2016, at age 32
70
th HFD Line of Duty Death

Entered the Fire Department:  October 26, 2015 

Assignment:  Cadet-Val Jahnke Training Facility, Class 2015G 

Buried:  Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Beaumont, Texas, Garden of Love, Plot D, Lot 76, Space 2

Steven was a well respected cadet, mentor and motivator to many of his classmates and had only two and a half months left of his training. He was 32 and older than most of his fellow cadets. His class graduated June 16th and dedicated the ceremony to him. Class 2015G placed a memorial plaque at the Val Jahnke Training Facility in his honor.

In 2014 he became a member of the Texas National Guard. After completing infantry and airborne school he was in line to attend Army Ranger School. The Army offered him an opportunity to attend the testing process to join the Green Berets, he declined the offer.


On the morning of March 31
st, the members of Class 2015G were going through the obstacle course at the Survival House. Steven had almost competed his turn when he collapsed. His classmates quickly brought him outside and began CPR while attempting to lower his body temperature. Medic 44 was on the grounds involved in a drill. They transported him to Memorial Hermann Hospital. Several hours later efforts to save him failed. His cause of death was ruled dehydration and hyperthermia.


Clifford Allen Wiese

 

Born:  June 10, 1891, in Houston, Texas

Died:  July 14, 1913, at age 22
7
th HFD Line of Duty Death

Entered the Fire Department:  July 4, 1913

Assignment:  Pipe and Ladderman-Hose Company No. 3
Buried:  Magnolia Cemetery, Section 39, Space B, in the Wiese family plot.

Clifford Wiese had been a member of the Houston Fire Department for ten days when his mule drawn supply wagon was struck by a train. He was assigned to drive the wagon and deliver supplies to the fire houses around the city. On his way back to Fire House No. 3 via Johnson Street, he crossed the railroad tracks behind the fire house as a Missouri Kansas Texas Railroad work train, repairing the track, pushed its cars into the intersection. The mule was injured in the collision and Wiese was transported to St. Joseph Infirmary where he succumbed to his injuries.

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