Updated 4/13, 12:30p ET
-- Two Houston, Texas firefighters -- a veteran captain with nearly 30 years experience and a probational firefighter with just a month in the field -- died early Easter morning battling a house fire.
During an aggressive interior attack of the one-story structure, command determined fire conditions were too intense and backed all crews out. During the post evacuation accountability check, the two firefighters were determined to be missing.
The victims have been identified as Captain James Harlow and Probationary Firefighter Damiem Hobbs.
Harlow, 50, had nearly 30 years on the job in Houston. He was the caption at Station 26 for the past five years.
Hobbs, 29, had just graduated from the Houston fire academy in March and was on his first assignment at Station 26 since March 7.
About the Victims
Source: Houston Fire Dept,
|Captain James Harlow, 50, was hired by the HFD in August 1979 and has been a Captain at Fire Station 26 since 2004.
|Probationary Firefighter Damien Hobbs, 29, graduated from the HFD Val Jahnke Training Facility on March 3, 2009, with Class 2008C, and began his first assignment at Station 26 on March 7.
A mayday was called, KHOU reported
, but intense flames kept crews from going back in for search and rescue for some period of time. The exact timeline of the incident was not immediately available.
The Associated Press reported
that the victim's bodies were found in the house between 1 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. Rescue workers attempted CPR but the men were pronounced dead at the scene.
The blaze was dispatched at 12:14 a.m. local time, according to the HFD's Active Incidents log
. The first due companies were from Station 26
, where an engine, ambulance, ladder company and District Chief responded from. Station 26 is about 1.2 miles from the scene of the blaze on Oak Vista.
KTRK reported that
at 4:26am, Houston firefighters formed two lines outside of the home as the bodies of the fallen firefighters were removed from the scene by stretcher.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation as firefighters are providing their accounts of the incident to investigatiors. There were several reports that a resident of the home was rescued during the blaze, but additional information wasn't immediately available.
The fire gained intensity, according to KHOU
, after crews cut a hole in the roof, reporting that after high winds may have fueled the spread of the blaze to a larger portion of the home.
Houston in Mourning Again
Houston firefighters are mourning the loss of two firefighters killed in a single blaze for the second time this decade. Tragically, those firefighters were also lost on a holiday -- Valentine's Day, 2000.
Firefighters Lewis Mayo, 44, and Kimberly Smith, 30, were killed when the roof of a burning McDonald's restaurant collapsed on them. Three teens were convicted of murder in the arson and burglary that started that blaze.
Including today's tragedy and the McDonald's blaze in 2000, there have been seven line of duty deaths in Houston in the last nine years, according to the Houston Fire Memorial site
In 2001, Captain Jay Jahnke, a 20 year veteran of the Houston Fire Department, died while fighting a high rise fire located in the Galleria area. Firefighter Kevin Kulow was killed in 2004 while battling a building fire, also as a fire intensified and he was unable to escape the structure. Captain Grady Burke died in a 2005 house fire.
Rough Few Months for HFD
The Houston Fire Department has had a rough few months. Just Saturday, the civlian victim of a fire truck crash involving two responding Houston units died from her injuries, KHOU reported
. Leigh Boone, 29, was removed from life support, some two weeks aftrer the March 30 crash. She was on a bicycle that was struck during the crash. The driver of the ladder truck involved in the accident was found at fault.
. A total of 11 people, including nine firefighters and Boone, were hurt in the crash.
On November 3rd, 2008, the department had a close call at a house fire. Captain Darin Unruh, Station 39, was critically injured with third degree burns and smoke inhalation. STATter911 reported
in December that he was recovering at home after spending over a month in the hospital.