HOUSTON -- A public memorial service was held Wednesday for Houston Fire Department Capt. William "Iron Bill" Dowling who died a week ago from injuries sustained while fighting a massive fire that killed four of his comrades in 2013.
The service began at 10 a.m. at Houston Baptist University's Linda and Archie Dunham Theater in the Morris Cultural Arts Center. A processional march of firefighters, family members and dignitaries started at 8:45 a.m. in honor of the fallen firefighter.
Dowling and his family have captured the hearts of the nation who watched the brave firefighter struggle to recover.
What has been called the deadliest day in the history of HFD is one many Houstonians will never forget.
A massive fire raged through the Southwest Inn on May 31, 2013 and Dowling and his crew rushed inside to battle the blaze. A roof collapsed, trapping several of the firefighters.
Four of them, Matthew Renaud, Robert Bebee, Robert Garber and Anne Sullivan, did not survive. Their leader, Dowling, was left severely injured.
After spending nearly six months in the hospital he emerged, but his life would never be the same. The captain, who was known for his strength and courage, was left to depend on others for care after suffering brain damage and having both legs amputated. But with his same "Iron Bill" inner strength, Dowling and his family pushed forward until he succumbed to his injuries.
HFD Sr. Capt. Ruy Lozano discussed preparations for the memorial service.
HFD released the following statement after news of the captain's death:
"The men and women of the Houston Fire Department mourn the loss Captain William ‘Iron Bill’ Dowling. Captain William Dowling has died on Today, March 7, 2017. Captain Dowling entered the Houston Fire Department 17 years ago, on March 21, 2000. He retired on June 1, 2013 after suffering career ending and life altering injuries in the Southwest Inn fire on May 31, 2013, that killed four other Houston firefighters. The Southwest Inn fire is considered the deadliest day in Houston Fire Department history. Captain Dowling passed away today due to complications of the injuries. The incredible strength and bravery he showed as he and his family rebuilt his life – and theirs – after his injuries inspired us all. Please keep the Dowling family and all of the men and women of our fire department in your prayers."
And condolences flooded social media timelines honoring Dowling.
Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeted and released a statement in honor of the fallen hero.
I join the Houston Fire Department in mourning the loss of Captain William “Iron Bill” Dowling, who died today from complications suffered in the 2013 fire at the Southwest Inn that claimed the lives of four other Houston fire fighters. Captain Dowling left us on the day we were honoring our first responders at the Houston Rodeo. He was truly a hero whose service to the city will not be forgotten. I ask all Houstonians to pray for his family and friends," said Turner.
The Houston Fire Department held a live press conference on March 8 at city hall in honor of Dowling.
Order of Memorial Service 3/15/2017:
Houston Fire Department, Massed Pipes and Drums, All Uniformed Fire Fighters and Emergency Responders
Mark Miller, Captain, Houston Fire Department
Master of Ceremony remarks:
Michael Mire, Senior Captain, Houston Fire Department
Garry Blackmon, Chaplain, Houston Fire Department
Mayor of Houston address:
The Honorable Sylvester Turner
Fire Chief address:
Samuel Peña, Fire Chief, Houston Fire Department
American flag presentation:
United States Marine Corps Color Guard
Patrick M. “Marty” Lancton, President, Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, IAFF Local 341
IAFF medal of honor presentation:
Roy L. “Sandy” McGhee, District 11 Vice-President, IAFF
Line of duty medal presentation:
Bob Royall, Assistant Chief, Harris County (TX) Fire Marshal's Office
Terry Garrison, Fire Chief, Glendale (AZ) Fire Department Fire Chief, Houston Fire Department (2010 - 2015)
Jacki, Forrest, Faith, and Foster Dowling, Wife and Children of William R. “Iron Bill” Dowling
Terry Lowe, Engineer-Operator, Houston Fire Department
Fire station 68 address:
Matt Moore, Engineer-Operator, and Members of Fire Station 68, Houston Fire Department
Dave Armstrong, Senior Captain, Houston Fire Department
Final Alarm Bell ceremony:
Honor Guard, Houston Fire Department
Massed Pipes and Drums
Jeff Wells, Senior Pastor, WoodsEdge Community Church
Houston Fire Department, All Uniformed Fire Fighters and Emergency Responders