Houston's Line of Duty Firefighters
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Woodrow Wilson Erwin
 

Born:  March 2, 1914, in Palestine, Texas

Died:  February 24, 1954, at age 39

38th HFD Line of Duty Death

Entered the Fire Department:  July 8, 1940

Assignment:  Chauffeur-Fire House No. 24

Buried:  Forest Park Cemetery, Lawndale, Section 31, Plot 518, Space 1

Woodrow Erwin died of a heart attack after fighting a house fire at 2705 Clay Street and Nagle Street. That day he was the Acting Captain, Engine 24 was dispatched to a fire that involved a small shack located in a junkyard. Immediately after the fire was extinguished, he complained of a sharp pain in his chest and asked to be taken to the hospital. On the way to Jefferson Davis Hospital, he asked the attendants to call his wife and have her meet him at the hospital. He died just minutes before his wife’s arrival.


Lonnie Lauzette Franklin

Born:  November 14, 1929, in Houston, Texas

Died:  January 4, 1983, at age 53

52nd HFD Line of Duty Death
Entered the Fire Department:  August 5, 1950

Assignment:  District Chief-Fire House No. 7 “B” Shift

Buried:  Resthaven Memorial Gardens Cemetery, Section 7, Plot 78, Space 4

Chief Franklin died while responding to a house fire in the 2800 block of Dowling Street near Drew Street. The District Chief’s car was struck broadside by a pickup truck which had ran the stop sign at the intersection of Elgin Street and Hutchins Street. Engine 7 and Ladder 7 were seconds behind. The engine crew stopped to render aid while the ladder truck proceeded to the fire. Lonnie was transported  by Ambulance 25 to Hermann Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

The driver of the pick up truck was speeding because he was late for work.
He was found guilty of Negligent Homicide. 

The cause of the house fire was ruled arson.


Robert Herman “Bobby” Garner  IV

Born:  April 14, 1984, in Port Arthur, Texas

Died:  May 31, 2013, at age 29
65
th HFD Line of Duty Death

Entered the Fire Department:  October 18, 2010, Class 2010B

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

Buried:  Forest Park Cemetery, Westheimer, Section 500, Lot 64, Space 10

Robert Garner, died along with Matt Renaud, Bobby Bebee and Anne Sullivan 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.

Before becoming a proud member of the Houston Fire Department, Robert served in the United States Air Force for six years as a SRA (Senior Airman). He completed two tours of duty in Iraq.   


Horace Oscar Gassoway

Born:  July 18, 1904, in Winnsboro, Texas

Died:  August 6, 1941, at age 37
27th HFD Line of Duty Death
Entered the Fire Department:  September 1928

Assignment:  Pipe and Ladderman-Fire House No. 10

Buried:  Hollywood Cemetery, Section J, Plot 31, Space 1

The day that Horace Gassoway died, he was working at the Central Fire Station, assigned to Service Truck 1. His regular assignment was Fire House No. 10. The crew was dispatched to a fire in the Weingarten’s Grocery Store on Washington Avenue and Preston Street. They were involved in a collision with Engine 2, also dispatched to the same fire. The two fire trucks entered the intersection of Smith Street and Preston Street at the same time. Four firefighters were injured, Horace died at the scene. 


Robert Rutherford Glass

Born:  September 14, 1882, in Houston, Texas

Died:  December 1, 1913, at age 31
9
th HFD Line of Duty Death

Entered the Fire Department:  1902

Assignment:  Pipe and Ladderman-Central Fire Station
Buried:  Evergreen Cemetery, Section B2, Plot 21, Space 3

Robert Glass was assigned to Auto Service Truck 1. He died while responding to a house fire in the 5th Ward. When the apparatus exited the Central Fire Station, the truck collided with Car 119 of the Galveston-Houston Electric Railway Company. Car 119 was returning to its roundhouse nearby the Central Fire Station. Glass was transported to St. Joseph Infirmary with two of his crew members. He succumbed to his injuries the next morning, the two crew members survived.

 

Robert was the Vice President of the “City Fireman’s Union No. 9629”, which was the first Houston fireman union organized on March 5, 1902. He held that office from 1906 to 1908. The union was disbanded after Fire Chief O’Leary died in 1908 and the new Fire Chief, Reginald “Kid” Ollre took office. Chief Ollre was never in favor of a union. 


Edgar Henry Grant Jr.

Born:  March 20, 1902, in Houston, Texas
Died:  July 2, 1929, at age 27
18
th HFD Line of Duty Death
Entered the Fire Department:  February 18, 1928
Assignment:  Pipe and Ladderman-Fire House No. 18
Buried:  Forest Park Cemetery, Lawndale, Section C, Plot 109, Space 7

Edgar Grant, a six month veteran, died along with Captain Little and Harry Oxford when Engine 18 was dispatched to a house fire at 2426 Wilshire Street at Telephone Road. The incident was after dark, the firefighters were distracted by a large glow in the sky from the house fire. As they approached the railroad crossing at Telephone Road near Lombardy Street, they did not see a Gulf Coast Line Railway locomotive pulling 53 cars entering the crossing at the same time. Engine 18 was broadsided, Grant died at the scene and two members of the crew were injured.


 

Daniel David "Danny" Groover

Born:  December 15, 1967, in Jacinto City, Texas

Died:  July 9, 2014, at age 46
68
th HFD Line of Duty Death

Entered the Fire Department:  February 15, 1993, Class 93B

Assignment:  Firefighter-Fire House No. 104 “C” Shift

Buried:  Houston National Cemetery, Section G4, Site 1145

Daniel Groover died while fighting a house fire at 1510 Mistletoe Lane near Redbud Lane in Houston’s Kingwood area. Inside the structure, he became separated from his crew and was found in cardiac arrest. He was transported to Kingwood Medical Center where he later died.

 

Daniel served five years in the United States Army as a medic. He had been a paramedic for the Houston Fire Department from April 9, 1997 to June 21, 2012. He was widely known for his compassion toward others that reached well beyond the Fire Department.

   

                                                                                               James Arthur Harlow Sr.


Born:  May 18, 1958, in Beeville, Texas

Died:  April 12, 2009-Easter Sunday, at age 50
61st
HFD Line of Duty Death

Entered the Fire Department:  December 27, 1979, Class 79D

Assignment:  Captain-Fire House No. 26 “B” Shift

Buried:  Grandview Memorial Park Cemetery, Garden of Prayer, Lot 584, Space 2

Captain Harlow, a 30 year veteran, died with his “Rookie” Firefighter Damion Hobbs in a house fire at 7811 Oak Vista near Poplar Street on Easter morning. Captain Harlow entered the structure with his crew to search for the occupants of the home. Wind driven fire conditions produced a rapid fire growth that forced Harlow and Hobbs to withdraw, they collapsed while attempting to exit. They both were quickly found, however efforts to resuscitate failed.

 

A devoted husband, father and grandfather, James was a respectable and approachable captain. He had an open door policy and his crew members were always comfortable approaching him. He was a perpetual optimist. He always said in an East Texas accent, “Everything is going to be alright”. At his memorial service, his family was presented the Houston Fire Department’s Medal of Honor, posthumously.

 

 

H. A. “Ace” Harris

 
Born:  October 24, 1873, in Calvert, Texas

Died:  February 14, 1921-Valentine’s Day, at age 47

Entered the Fire Department:  November 1, 1920
10
th HFD Line of Duty

Assignment:  Pipe and Ladderman-Fire Station No. 10

Buried:  Sunnyside Cemetery, Calvert, Texas, Left side from the front gate, four rows from the front fence.

Before Harris became a member of the Houston Fire Department, he was a member of the Dallas Fire Department for 12 years. When he moved to Houston, he painted houses until he was hired by HFD. He had been a member for about three months when Engine 10 responded to a fire at the Texas Lamp and Oil Company, 203 Baker and Cedar Street.

Because of the lack of water supply, the fire crews had to drag hose lines through a narrow alley to reach the burning building. Harris, along with the other crew members, entered the alley with two hose lines in order to gain access to the burning building. Meanwhile, another crew opened a door on the opposite end of the building. This created a back draft causing multiple barrels of denatured alcohol to explode, blowing out the wall bordering the alley, trapping Harris and seven other firefighters. Harris did not perish from the falling wall, the heavy lamp oil smoke suffocated him. 

 

Harris’ death was overlooked by the Houston Fire Department for 79 years until a scrapbook owned by Chief Grover Cleveland Adams was discovered with a Houston Press clipping dated February 15, 1921, verifying Harris’ line of duty death.


Truxton Joseph Hathaway Jr.

Born:  January 9, 1940, in Houston, Texas

Died:  October 19, 1971, at age 31
48th HFD
Line of Duty

 Entered the Fire Department:  February 15, 1961

Assignment:  Fire Inspector-Fire Training Academy

Buried:  Forest Park Cemetery, Lawndale, Gethsemane 55, Plot 491, Space 8

Truxton Hathaway was a Fire Inspector temporarily assigned to the Fire Training Academy. When an 82 car Missouri Pacific Railroad train derailed near Mykawa Road, he went out to the scene to record the incident for future training.

Two tank cars containing vinyl chloride and butadiene, caught fire and exploded.  Forty minutes later a second blast occurred killing Truxton and injuring 27 firefighters, six members of the news media, one HPD officer, and two civilians. 


To this day, film footage recorded by the news media is used for training all around the country.


Rudolph Leon “Rudy” Hendricks

Born:  September 29, 1906, in Columbus, Texas

Died:  June 22, 1929, at age 22
17
th HFD Line of Duty

Entered the Fire Department:  January 4, 1928

Assignment:  Pipe and Ladderman-Fire House No. 25

Buried:  Rosewood Cemetery, Section I, Lot 112, Space 4

Rudy Hendricks, with less than two years in the department, died while operating a hose line at a house fire at 3552 Reeves Street at Scott Street. A power line burned through at the house and fell, electrocuting him. He was transported to Houston Methodist Hospital but died before arrival. He recently married his childhood sweetheart.


Damion  Jon  Hobbs

Born:  December 24, 1978, in Galveston, Texas

Died:  April 12, 2009-Easter Sunday, at age 30
60
th HFD Line of Duty

Entered the Fire Department:  March 3, 2009, Class 2008C

Assignment:  Firefighter-Fire House No. 26 “B” Shift

Buried:  South Park Cemetery, Garden of Eternal Love, Lot 53, Space 5

Damion Hobbs died along with Captain Harlow in a house fire at 7811 Oak Vista near Poplar Street on Easter morning. Engine 26 entered the structure to search for the occupants of the home. Wind driven fire conditions produced a rapid fire growth that forced Harlow and Hobbs to withdraw, they collapsed while attempting to exit. They both were quickly found, however efforts to resuscitate failed.


Hobbs served two tours of duty in Iraq with the United States Army. He was at the Val Jahnke Training Facility as a member of Class 31 2004 when he was deployed the second time. Upon his return he became a member of Class 2008C and graduated March 3, 2009.


Claude Jackson Hopkins
 
 
Born:  January 20, 1932, in Bryan, Texas

Died:  June 30, 1962, at age 30

45th HFD Line of Duty
Entered the Fire Department:  November 1, 1956
Assignment:  Chauffeur-Fire House No. 2
Buried:  Willowhole Cemetery, North Zulch, Texas, Section C, Space 359

On Friday, June 29, 1962, Ladder 2 responded to a sprinkler alarm at the Bayou Products Company, 1209 Commerce Street near San Jacinto Street. The apparatus hit a transport truck carrying grain at the intersection of Preston Street and Louisiana Street. Four firefighters were transported to Jefferson Davis Hospital. Claude, severely injured, died the next day.

The alarm was false, a vagrant attempted to get a drink from a drain valve of the sprinkler system which set off the alarm.


Jay Paul Jahnke

Born:  September 16, 1961, in Houston, Texas

Died:  October 13, 2001, at age 40
57
th HFD Line of Duty

Assignment:  Captain-Fire House No. 2 “B” Shift

Buried:  Memorial Oaks Cemetery, Section 212, Lot 138, Space 4D, Next to Claude, his Dad

At 0453 hours, Engine 2 responded to a report of a fire in the Four Leaf Towers, a high rise residential building at 5110 San Felipe Street and South Post Oak Lane. On arrival the firefighters received a report that the male occupant was still in the unit on the fifth floor. Upon entering the unit, they encountered moderate heat and heavy smoke, the fire had broken one of the windows. The initial search did not locate the resident, who was later found deceased. Two of the firefighters were running low on air and were sent to the stairwell. Captain Jahnke then decided that him and Senior Captain Robert Green from Ladder 28 should do the same. Upon exiting, the hose line did not clear the apartment’s self closing door, the door did not completely shut. Simultaneously, a cold front came through, the high winds pushed the smoke and fire out into the hall where the two captains were attempting to escape. Captain Jahnke became disoriented and followed the hose line in the direction of the fire. He transmitted a “Mayday” and was found a few minutes later. He was carried down and transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital where shortly after arrival he succumbed to his injuries.

Jay was a highly respected officer, who was part of the Houston Medical Strike Team‚ Swift Water Rescue‚ and HAZMAT Certified. He also served as the Chief Safety Officer with Cy-Creek Volunteer Fire Department
.  


Charles Alphonse “Jed” Jedlicka 


Born:  September 27, 1922, in Cameron, Texas

Died:  November 17, 1959, at age 37

43rd HFD Line of Duty
Entered the Fire Department:  June 1, 1953

Assignment:  Pipe and Ladderman-Fire House No. 30

Buried:  Brookside Cemetery, Section 2, Plot 159, Space 1

Charles Jedlicka died after sustaining severe injuries in an accident that also claimed the life of Willis McWhorter and injured two other firefighters. Engine 30 was responding to a house fire on Airline Drive and Benbrook Street. The accident occurred at the intersection of Fulton Street and Berry Street as an approaching transport truck loaded with steel beams saw Engine 30, but was unable to stop due to its heavy load. The fire apparatus was broadsided, breaking it into several pieces.

Due to the severity of his injuries, he was transferred to Brooks Army Hospital at Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio in a plane owned by a local oil company. Eleven days later he succumbed to his injuries.


Clifford William Johnson


Born:  1878, in Houston, Texas

Died:  June 13, 1902, at age 24
3
rd HFD Line of Duty

Entered the Fire Department:  1899

Assignment:  Pipe and Ladderman-Central Fire Station

Buried:  Hollywood Cemetery, Mossy Dell, Plot 42, Space 6

Clifford Johnson, driver of the Fire Chief’s buggy died while responding to a fire at 1611 Franklin Street and Crawford Street. His assignment was to pick up Fire Chief “Jack” Arto at home to respond to the fire. He was traveling at a high rate of speed on Crawford Street, as he passed Washington No. 8, he ran into the rear of a slow moving buggy without taillights. The men at the fire house tried to warn the civilian driver, but were unsuccessful. Johnson was transported to St. Joseph  Infirmary where he died the next day.


Cohnway Matthew Johnson
 

Born:  October 4, 1982, in Austin, Texas

Died:  May 4, 2009, at age 26
62
nd HFD Line of Duty

Entered the Fire Department:  April 20, 2009

Assignment:  Cadet-Val Jahnke Training Facility, Class 2009C

Buried:  Cook-Walden Capital Parks Cemetery, Pflugerville, Texas, Section H, Lot 1608, Space 3

Cohnway had known from a young age he wanted to be a firefighter. He was following in his Great Uncle’s footsteps, a Chief with Austin Fire Department.  Before being chosen to join the Houston Fire Department he served with two other departments, the Yoakum Fire Department and TCESD #3 (Oak Hill Fire Department, Austin, Texas). He was a part-time firefighter for TCESD #9 (Westlake Fire Department, Austin, Texas) and TCESD #12 (Manor Fire Department, Manor, Texas). 

 

On the morning of April 29, 2009, Cadet Johnson collapsed during physical training and was transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Medical Center. Five days later he lost his battle for life due to complications of hyperthermia and dehydration.


William Henry "Bill" Kersten

 
Born:  November 6, 1914, in Houston, Texas

Died:  December 18, 1954, at age 40
40
th HFD Line of Duty

Entered the Fire Department:  December 11, 1941

Assignment:  Chauffeur-Fire House No. 19

Buried:  Woodland Gardens of Memories Cemetery, Section 56, Plot 116, Space 3D

William Kersten, the driver of District Chief 19 was dispatched to a house fire at 7306 Bonham Street and Harbor Street. When entering the intersection of Lockwood Drive and Lyons Avenue the chief’s car collided with a Houston Transit Company Bus. Kersten, his chief and three bus passengers were injured. Kersten was transported to Jefferson Davis Hospital where he did not survive his injuries.  

 

Kersten had five minutes left on his shift when the alarm was dispatched.


Kevin Wayne Kulow 


Born:  November 2, 1971, in Bellville, Texas

Died:  April 4, 2004-Palm Sunday, at age 32
58
th HFD Line of Duty

Entered the Fire Department:  September 15, 2003, Class 23

Assignment:  Firefighter-Fire House No. 50 “A” Shift

Buried:  Sealy Public Cemetery, Sealy, Texas, Section 17, Lot 423B, Space B

Kevin Kulow started his work day just like all “Rookies”, a bit early. He arrived at the fire house and took off the gear of the “B” Shift firefighter he was relieving. Soon after that, at 5:55 AM, Engine 50 was dispatched to 7610 Kempwood Drive near Wirt Road for a truck fire involving hazardous chemicals. However, upon arrival they discovered a fire in the El Festival Ballroom, an after hours night club.

 

Civilians at the location reported that they were not sure everyone got out of the building safely. While searching for victims the fire intensified, the crew was able to find their hose line and follow it to safety. While exiting the building they realized that Kevin did not get out with them. By that time the fire had burned through the roof and ceiling. Kevin was unable to do find his way out of the building.

 

During the investigation it was determined that the arsonist had thrown several full one gallon plastic gasoline containers on to the roof.

The fire, set because of a domestic dispute, was ruled arson. Three men and one woman were charged and convicted of the murder of Firefighter Kevin Kulow. The ring leader, Jeremy Robinson, a career criminal, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The other three received sentences ranging from 3 to 40 years. 


John Sellis Little Sr.

Born:  November 19, 1883, in Knoxville, Tennessee

Died:  July 11, 1929, at age 45

20th HFD Line of Duty
Entered the Fire Department:  June 4, 1913

Assignment:  Captain-Fire House No. 18

Buried:  Forest Park Cemetery, Lawndale, Section 27, Plot 59, Space 12

Captain Little, a 16 year veteran, died along with Harry Oxford and Edgar Grant when Engine 18 was dispatched to a house fire at 2426 Wilshire Street at Telephone Road. The incident was after dark, the firefighters were distracted by a large glow in the sky from the house fire. As they approached the railroad crossing at Telephone Road near Lombardy Street, they did not see a Gulf Coast Line Railway locomotive pulling 53 cars entering the crossing at the same time. Engine 18 was broadsided. Two members of the crew were injured in the accident.

 

Captain Little was transported to Memorial Baptist Hospital. After undergoing numerous surgeries in an effort to save him, he died nine days later.
 

His family was leaving for a family vacation the next day when he got off work.

 

Prior to his assignment to Fire House No. 18 his rank was that of Battalion Chief. He, however voted for the wrong Mayor of Houston and was punished by the Fire Chief. He was demoted to the rank of Captain, with that came lower pay and a new assignment, Fire House No. 18.  
 

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