“You’re more than a brother to them. You’re one of their own and they will watch over you no matter what they do.”
Twenty-seven- year-old Tim Fortenberry feels like he’s lost a brother. He never thought about dying on the job. At least not until this weekend. I spoke with him as he signed a card lying next to some flowers on the grass. From the front yard, Tim stares at the charred house where two firefighters died. Tim is a cadet. And should be fighting fires next year.
” I don’t know…I really don’t know what to think.”
That’s because he’s got a lot going through his mind. Sickness forced him to drop out of the academy, so he’ll start up again later this year. But he just got married last month and his wife isn’t taking this very well.
“Is she questioning it? Oh yeah, now more than ever.”
“We all know when we sign up for the job that this is a possible outcome, as much as we do everything we can to not have this type of situation.”
As I talked with Tim more people came by to lay flowers. Others stopped to take pictures. Tom Procter doesn’t need a picture. He saw everything from his front yard.
“We knew things were bad, but I don’t think we really realized how bad they were until we watched them pull out the first firefighter and lay him on the grass. And then they pulled out a second firefighter.”
Assistant Chief Rick Flanagan says their investigation will focus on the cause of the fire and what happened to the firefighters.
“It will be very detailed regarding the statement of the residents, the locations of the firefighters, windspeed and direction, where units were parked, what pieces of equipment were used.”
Whatever investigators find out won’t effect Tim Fordenberry, who told me how hard it was to leave the academy and his brothers when he got sick.
“And then, I had to stop and now I’m fixing to go back in. And then now this hits home, especially with me just talking to this gentleman.”
“But are you still ready to finish the academy and be a firefighter?”
“Oh, yes sir. To me, this is a big price to pay. It’s the ultimate price to pay, sacrifice for your community.”
And once he gets out, will he be able to put on the gear, or will what happened at this house weigh on his mind?
“I’m not worried about it one bit. I’ll be there just like everybody else.”
Bill Stamps KUHF Houston Public Radio News.
Funeral Services for the two fallen firefighters will be held Thursday at Grace Community Church located near the Gulf Freeway.