Firefighter dies after collapsing while responding to call

March 14, 2012 3:19:03 PM PDT
It's a sad day for the Houston Fire Department as they mourn the loss of a veteran firefighter who died on the job Wednesday.

Right now, you can see flags outside fire stations across this city are at half staff as emergency workers mourn the loss of a longtime fire captain.

It was an emotional morning as hundreds of firefighters lined the streets escorting the body of Sr. Captain Thomas "Bill" Dillion to the Medical Examiner's Office.

"It's a tough day for the fire department. Anytime we lose one of our firefighters, it's a very difficult day," said Richard Mann, HFD Exec. Asst. Fire Chief.

Firefighters gathered at the hospital to show their support and form a 'wall of honor' as his body was loaded into the ambulance.

The 22-year veteran of HFD died in the line of duty while responding to a kitchen-related fire at a southwest Houston apartment complex on Cook Road on Wednesday morning. The fire was quickly contained, and the concern became the firefighter's health.

During a news conference Wednesday, HFD's fire chief said Capt. Dillion collapsed after experiencing chest pains. Several emergency workers tried administering CPR on the 49-year-old.

His children and ex-wife rushed to the West Houston Medial Center where Dillion was pronounced dead one hour after his collapse.

"It's a line of duty death because he is at work, and he is performing his duty. Unfortunately, in the American fire service, one of our primary causes of death is heart attacks. This may be one of those heart attacks that we have," said HFD Chief Terry Garrison. "We're at our fire station, we're relaxed, and then the alarm comes and we respond. We kind of go from 0 to 10 miles an hour in a very short period of time, and over years that has stress on your heart."

The fire chief says the investigation into Dillion's exact cause of death is ongoing.

Dillion was assigned to Station 69, but was working a fill-in shift at another station when the incident happened.

Comrades called Dillion a good friend and a good leader.

"We spend every minute of every day being leaders away from the fire ground and at the fire stations, and he'll be remembered for that. He was a good leader away from the fire ground and at the fire station every minute of every day he was on shift, he was a good leader," Mann said.

Among his family members, Dillion leaves behind three children.

The following statement was issued today by Jeff Caynon, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association (HPFFA):

    "The men and women of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association mourn the loss of Senior Captain Thomas W. ("Bill") Dillion. Senior Captain Dillion died today in the line of duty after fighting a fire at a southwest Houston apartment complex. He passed away after collapsing at the fire scene. Assigned to HFD Station 69, Senior Captain Dillion was an exemplary and well-respected firefighter during his 22-year HFD career. He is survived by three children. Memorial arrangements are pending.

    "This tragic passing of Senior Captain Dillion reminds us of the inherent dangers of our profession. The HPFFA, the City of Houston and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) are supporting and working with the Dillion family and all affected firefighters during this difficult time. Please keep the Dillion family, as well as the men and women of Station 69 and the city's fire department, in your thoughts and prayers."

Mayor Annise Parker also released a statement: "His commitment to saving the lives and property of others is why we honor our firefighters' service. May Senior Captain Thomas W. Dillon rest in peace, and may his family find comfort in the support of the Houston Fire Department and the entire City of Houston."