Wichita West, Texas Firefighter Killed
Volunteer Run Over After Fire Truck Hit by Pickup

TRISH CHOATE
Courtesy Times Record News, Wichita Falls


A volunteer firefighter lost his life while battling a fire Monday afternoon in Wichita County, officials said.

A member of the Wichita West Volunteer Fire Department was killed instantly when the fire truck he was riding on collided with a pickup on Old State Road a few miles outside Wichita Falls, Wichita County Sheriff's Lt. David Duke said.

Authorities were withholding the name until his family was notified, he said.

"This young man, he was not paid to do this. He chose to do this, " Duke, a member of Wichita West, said. "These guys do this because they want to volunteer."

The man's death is the second in the volunteer department's history, Duke said. Even as they knew a fellow firefighter had been seriously injured, Wichita West firefighters continued to battle a grassfire between 82 and Old State Road. They had to fight the flames for a few hours after his death.

About 4:17 p.m. Monday, Wichita West firefighters responded to a call, officials said. The first truck on the scene was the one with the firefighter who was later killed. The road would have been blocked off as soon as units arrived to do it, and policy was followed in fighting the fire.

When the first truck arrived, the firefighter and driver faced heavy flames and strong wind pushing the flames toward Old State Road, Duke said. Thick grass would have provided ample fuel for the fire, and it was already trying to jump across the road.

The firefighter was riding in a cage on the front bumper of the truck to fight the flames with a hose, officials said. That's a standard practice. The truck was heading east, and then the driver made a U-turn to better position it to battle the flames.

David Luther Brown, 48, of Holiday was driving home from work, heading west down Old State Road in a 2000 F250 red pickup, Department of Public Safety Trooper Bill Browning said. Brown couldn't see through the smoke and hit the right front wheel of the truck.

The impact knocked off the firefighter off the truck, officials said. The fire truck driver did not have time to react, and the front left tire of the truck ran over the firefighter.

The impact pushed the five-ton truck about 15 feet, Duke said. The driver of the pickup was not hurt. But he was taken to 11th Street Campus to be evaluated.

He was treated and released Monday evening, a nursing supervisor said.

Wichita County fire investigators are looking into the cause of the fire, Duke said. If it's arson, charges might be filed, and capital murder is one of the possibilities. The fire was still burning in some spots at about 7:30 p.m. No more than three or four acres had burned, and firefighters stopped it from leaping across the road.

The firefighter's body has been sent to Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office in Fort Worth for an autopsy, Duke said.

The investigation of the accident is ongoing, and Browning wasn't sure if DPS would file any charges against the driver, he said.

Volunteer firefighters have insurance and benefits in case of death in the line of duty, Duke said. The loss saddened area firefighters, who gathered at the Wichita West Fire Department on Highway 82. The department has about 22 members, but many more than that came to the department Monday night.

"It's been many years since the last firefighter was killed in the line of duty," Duke said.

The man's death was rough on area firefighters, he said. And those at the scene of the accident were upset and traumatized.

Firehouse.com will update this story as information becomes available