Two HFD firefighters killed in house fire

April 12, 2009 9:47:17 PM PDT
Memorials are being created by thankful residents at the scene of the fire and the fire station where two fallen firefighters were based.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Meanwhile investigators are still trying to determine how those two HFD firefighters died while battling a house fire in southeast Houston Easter Sunday morning.

Eyewitness News has learned that one victim was a veteran of the Houston Fire Department. The other was a rookie who was in his first year of service. 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 Damion Hobbs, 29, graduated from the HFD Val Jahnke Training Facility on March 3, 2009, with a Class 2008C, and began his first assignment at Fire Station 26 on March 7.

The fire broke out after midnight Sunday at a house on Oak Vista and Deleon. When firefighters arrived on the scene, they took an aggressive approach to fighting the fire. Fire crews tried to put the flames out from inside. But as some point, the flames got too intense and all of the firefighters were ordered to get out.

Rescue crews realized two of their own were missing.

"The fire was so intense, it took a little while to knock the fire down before we could go back in and find them," said District Chief Tommy Dowdy with the Houston Fire Department.

As soon as rescue crews were able to get in, they found the Harlow and Hobbs.

Witnesses told Eyewitness News that those two firefighters were brought out and CPR was performed, but apparently it was too late. They were dead at the scene.

At 4:26am, Houston firefighters lined up outside the burned home and formed two lines, saluting as two stretchers passed by. These are the first steps down the path of bringing their fallen brothers home.

"The fire has apparently destroyed the entire house, the lives of our family and the fire department has been touched and the lives of the citizens of Houston as well," said Rick Flannigan with the Houston Fire Department. "It is going to take us a while to get things squared away."

There were two people inside the home when the fire broke out. They did manage to get out.

The firefighters who were battling this blaze were taken by a bus to a central command center where they are going to tell what they say happened from their point of view.

"It was so sad on this beautiful Easter morning that we lost two of Houston's fine firefighters just trying to save a family and save their belongings and home," said Houston Mayor Bill White. "I was there at the scene. Two officers, one a veteran of many decades, and a cadet that was just six weeks out and I just ask Houstonians to keep them in their thoughts and prayers."

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation. HFD Arson and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are both looking into what happened.

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The last firefighters killed in the line of duty:

Grady Burke
February 19, 2005 -- Killed in house fire started by man trying to light a crack pipe

Kevin Kulow
April 4, 2004 -- Killed in El Festival Ballroom fire, set by a man trying get back at his estranged wife

Captain Jay Jahnke
October 13, 2001 -- Killed fighting high rise fire in Galleria area

Lewis Mayo and Kim Smith
February 14, 2000 -- Killed fighting fire at a McDonald's in SW Houston

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