Memorial grows at site of fatal house fire

April 13, 2009 8:41:18 AM PDT
An older couple lived in the house that burned and led to the deaths of two firefighters Easter Sunday morning. A memorial outside that house has been growing for the last 24 hours.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Neighbors say the homeowners had made it outside before the firefighters even went in. They want to know why the two firefighters died, but they're also mourning the loss.

Children brought candy to exhausted firefighters. It was just one of many small gestures from neighbors who are heartbroken at the deaths of two firefighters who tried to save their neighbor's house and who prevented the blaze from spreading to their homes.

"I commend them for doing what they do because not everybody can run into a burning house and try to put out the fire in the hopes of trying to save something, anything," said neighbor Courtney Joseph.

One neighbor called 911 and says he told the operator his elderly neighbors, Joyce and Ed Hale, were safely out of the burning house.

"The neighbors were already out before everything started," said neighbor Joseph Casarez. "I called the fire department right away and I escorted them across the street before the first engines showed up. When I called I told them that the two occupants, the owners, were outside and it was just a house fire."

Casarez and other neighbors wonder what went wrong and say they pray for all the firefighters who are hurting this Easter Sunday.

"They really put a big effort into it and I know it's hard because they work with these people every day," said neighbor Linda Brown. "It is just like family members, some of them spend more time with their coworkers than they do at home. "

"It's sad to see people die like that, but sometimes it happens like that, it comes with the firefighting business," said neighbor Gregory Joseph.

The fire department tells us they're checking into how it all happened, but didn't give a definitive answer as to why Captain James Harlow, 50, and Probationary Firefighter Damion Hobbs, 30, were inside or why officials didn't realize more quickly the men were missing.

There is a growing memorial outside the burned out house with flowers, stuffed animals, many signs and cards saying that 'We love you' for both of the firefighters.

The medical examiner conducted autopsies on both of these firefighters yesterday, however we still have no cause of death for either one of them.

Officials will release more details during a news conference today.

The fallen firefighters

Damion Hobbs was only one month into his dream job. The rookie firefighter survived a 14-month tour of duty in Iraq and when he returned in July 2007, he started classes at the Houston Fire Department academy. The 30-year-old graduated from Alvin High School and much of his family still lives in the Alvin area.

James Harlow, 50, had been with the Houston Fire Department for 30 years. He was named captain at Fire Station 26 in 2004. Harlow, who lived in Pasadena, is being described as a devoted husband and loving father and grandfather.

Also killed in the line of duty

The last firefighters killed in the line of duty was Grady Burke, who died on February 19, 2005. He was killed in house fire started by man reportedly trying to light a crack pipe.

Kevin Kulow died April 4, 2004. He was killed in a fire at the El Festival Ballroom.

Captain Jay Jahnke died October 13, 2001. He was killed fighting a high rise fire in Galleria area.

Lewis Mayo and Kim Smith died February 14, 2000. They were killed fighting fire at a McDonald's in SW Houston.

How you can help

If you want to help the families of the firefighters, you can make a donation to "The 100 Club".

Just mail your donation to the Survivor's Fund to the following:

    The 100 Club Incorporated
    1233 West Loop South, Suite 1250
    Houston, Texas 77027.

The organization helps the families of police officers and firefighters who were killed in the line of duty.

The Last Alarm Club of Houston was founded in 1977 to help families of Houston fire fighters killed or seriously injured in the line of duty. They will be assisting the Harlow and Hobbs families. Contributions are welcomed.

More information is available at or by calling 713-223-9166.

- Statement from Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association (HPFFA)

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Houston Fire Department | Cpt. James Harlow and Firefighter Damien Hobbs | Houston Professional Firefighters