Houston Mourns Two Firefighters; 31 Firefighter Deaths Recorded in 2009

Houston Fire Department Capt. James Harlow, 50, and Probationary Firefighter Damion Hobbs, 29, died as they fought a house fire in during the early hours of Sunday morning. They are the first HFD firefighters to die in the line of duty since 2000 and the 29th and 30th firefighter deaths reported so far this year to the U.S. Fire Administration. A 31st fatality recorded this year resulted from an incident prior to 2009, according to USFA.

The department recorded another major incident only 15 days before when two fire trucks collided while responding to a reported apartment house fire. Nine firefighters and two civilians were injured. One of the civilians later died.

Houston Fire Chief Phil Boriskie and Assistant Executive Chief Rick Flanagan told the Houston Chronicle that HFD, the state fire marshal's office, and federal authorities are investigating the fire in which Harlow and Hobbs died. They could not get out of the structure and apparently did not know the two occupants of the house had escaped. Flanagan said investigators will find out whether thermal imaging equipment and firefighters' safety equipment were working properly at the time of their deaths.

"Firefighters quickly called for defensive attack on the fire and sadly Captain James Harlow and Probationary Firefighter Damion Hobbs of Station 26 succumbed to the fire," HFD said in its news release Monday. The release said Hsrlow has been a captain at Fire Station 26 since 2004, and Hobbs graduated from the HFD Val Jahnke Training Facility on March 3, 2009, and began his first assignment at Fire Station 26 on March 7.

Harlow had served 30 years with the department, while it was Harlow's first fire; he joined the department after serving a tour of duty in Iraq.

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