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Thread: Houston firefighter killed when roof collapses

  1. #1
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    Jan 2002

    Houston firefighter killed when roof collapses

    Houston firefighter killed when roof collapses

    HOUSTON -- Tragedy struck the Houston Fire Department Saturday when, for the 59th time in its history, a firefighter was killed in the line of duty.


    Houston firefighters have seen the aftermath of house fires countless times. But Saturday's blaze was different because it took away one of their own.

    Fire officials said 39-year-old Captain Grady Burke came into work a half hour early Saturday morning and around 6:30 Station 46 got the call.

    When firefighters arrived at the home in the 8500 block of Brandon in southeast Houston, the back was fully engulfed. Fearing someone could still be inside, Burke and his team went in.

    "It was a sudden collapse of the back portion of the house as they entered up on arrival," said Captain Gilbert Bennett, HFD.

    Witnesses immediately knew something was wrong.

    "One of the firemen jumped out of the window, then another behind him. They was on fire," said Randy Johnson, witness.

    In all, six firefighters were hurt, but made it out. Captain Burke, a 12-year HFD veteran did not.

    As his brothers struggled to come to grips with the loss, nearby residents felt an emptiness too.

    They know the firefighters of Station 46. They see them in their shops and on their streets.

    "Just like family, just like family. You don't want to see nobody die like that, that's just unnecessary," said Natalie Richardson, neighbor.

    As it turns out, no one was inside the house. Fire officials said it is a crack house and residents in the area said no one has lived in it for months.

    But as a procession carrying Captain Burke's body filed past his station, members of his family in uniform were a reminder that they always assume someone is inside alive.

    "He was a good firefighter," said Capt. Bennett. "He was aggressive. He came to work to save lives." That is what firefighters do.

    Investigators said it could be months before they find the exact cause. They are also looking for two people they describe as witnesses. One is a woman named Annie. The other person is man in an arm cast, walking with a white dog. Fire officials said they're often seen around the home that burned.

    If you have any information you're asked to contact authorities.

    Captain Burke leaves behind a wife of 12 years and three children, including 8 and 9-year-old daughters and a 7-year-old son.

    Burke's friends and family described him as a fearless firefighter. He joined the Houston Fire Department in March 1993 and was promoted to captain 10 years later, in March 2003.

    An impromptu memorial to Captain Burke has been growing outside of Station 46 in southeast Houston.

    Captain Burke was never one to walk away from danger. In November 2003 the department awarded him and fellow firefighters the Medal of Valor after they pulled a woman from a house. It could have not have been more dangerous. Burglar bars blocked every window. That woman, though, would die later at the hospital.

    He is the 59th Houston firefighter to die in the line of duty. The last was Kevin Kulow, who died last April.


    If you wish to help, contributions may be made to: 100 Club Survivor

  2. #2
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    Houston firefighter laid to rest
    2/23/2005 10:03 AM
    By: Associated Press

    HOUSTON -- Thousands of firefighters from across the state are expected to crowd a Houston church Wednesday for a memorial for a Houston firefighter killed in the line of duty. Capt. Grady Burke was killed Saturday when the roof of a burning abandoned house fell on him. Six other firefighters suffered minor injuries.

    The memorial service for the 39-year-old firefighter was Grace Community Church in Houston.

    Burke was a 12-year Houston Fire Department veteran who was promoted to captain in March 2003. He was awarded a medal of valor for helping rescue someone from a burning house in November 2003.

    Firefighters from Austin traveled to Houston to cover shifts for Houston firefighters attending the service.

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    Houston trails only New York in firefighter deaths since 2000
    2/27/2005 12:18 PM
    By: Associated Press

    HOUSTON -- Captain Grady Burke's death was the fifth firefighting casualty for the Houston Fire Department in the past five years -- and that fact is prompting some questions.

    The Houston Chronicle, analyzing Web sites of the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, found that Houston trails only New York City among major cities in deaths fighting fires since 2000.

    Even when the 343 New York City firefighters killed Sept. 11, 2001, are not included, New York City still has the most firefighter losses since 2000, nine.

    Thousands came last week to the funeral of the 39-year-old Burke, who died on Feb. 19 when an abandoned house became engulfed in flames and the ceiling fell, trapping him.

    The Chronicle reports in today's editions that two reports - one internal and one conducted by a federal review team - received little publicity when they came out but resonate now with their concern about the Houston department's training and use of the latest technology.

  4. #4
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    Thousands of firefighters gather to honor fallen comrade

    09:52 AM CST on Thursday, February 24, 2005

    By Amy Tortolani & Reggie Aqui / 11 News

    The 12-year veteran who dedicated his life to saving others was killed Saturday when the roof of a burning house collapsed.

    It was a sea of blue as the firefighters gathered at Station 93 on FM 1959 before beginning their procession.

    Capt. Grady Burke's engine, Number 46, carried his casket to the church. Fellow firefighters at Station 46 were up before dawn to decorate it with black bunting and floral wreaths.

    "It's a tradition to honor your fallen brothers," said one firefighter.

    A special banner has been painted to the truck now dedicated to Capt. Burke. It reads "In memory of a fallen hero, Capt. Grady Burke, 1993-2005."

    Burke's wife, Cindy, followed behind the truck clutching her husband's coat. She was surrounded by his brothers from Station 46.

    Hundreds of Houstonians lined the freeway to pay their respects as the procession went by.

    "Those kids have to know how there father sacrificed his life for others and that alone shows what an awesome man he must be," said Franche Forgy. "So that's why we are here."

    Mayor Bill White was among many speakers who paid tribute to Capt. Burke during the memorial service.

    "I'm here to express the thanks of a grateful city for the life, for the sacrifice you shared with us," the mayor told Burke's wife and three small children. "Aren't we blessed that God has put on this world that seem to be born with a value system that they would live their life in sacrifice and service to others."

    The mayor also vowed the Burke's death will now be in vain.

    "You have my word and the word of the elected officials that there will be a lesson that we learn about abounded structures," he said.

    Friends told the crowd they were blessed to know Burke.

    "Grady was very strong, a courageous firefighter -- but most of all he was our friend," said Debbie Bisbano. "His faith in God was so strong and he shared it with us daily."

    Burke's colleagues remembered him as a special firefighter.

    "It was often said at the firehouse in District 46 that when things got really bad, as they so often do, that you wanted Grady to be in there with you because you can count on him, because the members had unconditional trust in his ability to lead and as a firefighter," said HFD Chief Phil Boriske.

    Capt. Burke and several of his fellow firefighters entered a burning house Saturday morning. As they searched for victims, a portion of the back roof collapsed on top of the firefighters. Six were injured and Capt. Burke was killed.


    Senior Captain Robert Currie was one of the firefighters who nearly lost his life in the fire.

    "The whole house lit up and we had six guys inside when that happened and, luckily, what Capt. Burke did allowed five of us to get out," he said. "His actions saved five other guys."

    Currie said he couldn't go into further detail because of the ongoing investigation.

    An alleged crack addict, Jack Cordua, later admitted that he accidentally caused the blaze. Cordua says it was an accident that happened when he started a fire to see the crack cocaine he was trying to smoke in the dark, abandoned house.

    He's charged with possession of a controlled substance. The D.A.'s office may file more charges if they find evidence he purposely set the fire.

    Yoshi, the dog, that sniffed out accelerant on Cordua, attended Wednesday's memorial with his partner, arson investigator Robert McClain. "Everybody cares. Even if we're on four legs or just two," said McClain.

  5. #5
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    Man Charged In Connection With Firefighter's Death
    Funeral Scheduled For Wednesday

    POSTED: 10:11 am CST February 21, 2005
    UPDATED: 7:15 am CST February 22, 2005

    HOUSTON -- A man was charged Monday in connection with a southeast Houston house fire that killed a Houston firefighter, officials told Local 2.

    Jack Cordua

    Capt. Grady Burke, 39, died when the roof of the house in the 8500 block of Brandon Street collapsed, trapping him. Firefighters entered the burning home around 6 a.m. Saturday to make sure no one was inside. Six other firefighters were injured, but none of those injuries required hospitalization.

    Jack Cordua, 44, confessed to police that he lit a small fire inside the known crack house. He is described as a homeless man addicted to crack.

    "His nickname was 'White Boy Jack,'" said Brian Harris, with the Houston Police Department. "He lit the fire so he could see how to use his drugs, so he could load his drugs in his pipe and pack his pipe. When somebody's on drugs in a dark, abandoned building, and you can't see, you need light."

    After getting his description from neighbors, police spotted Cordua on a METRO bus and taken in for questioning.

    A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms dog alerted officers to the possibility that an accelerant was on Cordua's clothes. Cordua then confessed to starting the fire and said he did not mean to do it.

    8500 block of Brandon Street

    "I would describe it more as self-preservation -- 'What is going to happen to me? Why should I tell this because what is going to happen to me?'" Harris said.

    He was charged with possession of crack cocaine. The district attorney is considering other charges as well, ranging from arson to capital murder.

    Burke Remembered As Loving Man

    At Burke's church Sunday, the Southeast Church Of Christ, he was remembered as loving father of three young children and a devoted husband.

    "He loved his two daughters and his son more than anything. There's probably one thing he loved more and that was God. He lived his life for God, for his family and for the fire department," said Rhonda Kirksey, Burke's friend.

    HFD Capt. Grady Burke, 39

    Burke was a 12-year veteran of the department and was promoted to captain in March 2003. He was awarded a medal of valor for helping rescue a trapped victim from a house fire in November 2003.

    He is the 59th Houston firefighter to die in the line of duty. The last was Kevin Kulow, who died in April.

    Burke's funeral will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the Grace Community Church, 14505 Gulf Freeway. The viewing will take place Tuesday from noon until 9 p.m. at Forest Park East Funeral Home, 21620 Gulf Freeway in Webster. The family is accepting visitors from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Tuesday.

    Donations Accepted For Burke's Family

    The Last Alarm Club of Houston is accepting donations to support Burke's family.

    Donations may be made by visiting the Last Alarm Club Web site at or mailed to:

    The Last Alarm Club
    1907 Freeman Street
    Houston, TX 77009

    Checks should be made payable to the Last Alarm Club.

    The 100 Club is also accepting donations on Burke's behalf. For more information, call (713) 952-0100 or visit

  6. #6
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    Burke, Grady

    Age: 39
    Cause of Death: Caught or Trapped
    Rank: Captain
    Nature of Death: Burns
    Classification: Career
    Emergency Duty: Yes

    Incident Date: 02/19/2005
    Duty Type: On-Scene Fire
    Incident Time: 06:00
    Activity Type: Search and Rescue
    Death Date: 02/19/2005
    Fixed Prop. Use: Residential

    Fire Dept. Info:
    Houston Fire Department
    1205 Dart Street
    Houston , Texas 77007
    Chief: Phil Boriskie

    Initial Summary:
    Captain Burke was performing search and rescue efforts at a residential structure fire. When the structure became unstable, all other personnel pulled out except for Burke who became trapped when the roof collapsed. Despite rescue efforts by fellow firefighters, attempts to save him were unsuccessful. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

    Memorial Fund Info:
    C/o Houston Fire Department, 1205 Dart Street, Houston, TX 77007

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