Pickard Family Talks About Losing Father, Husband in Bryan Fire

By: Michael Oder Email
By: Michael Oder Email

Bryan "We are very proud of him," says Susie Pickard.

She's holding a red fire helmet with a number five on the front plate. It belonged to her husband, Greg. It's the helmet that was used at his funeral.

"They gave us a lot of his stuff," says Susie. She holds the helmet close. I ask her how important is it for her to have these things

"I want to have it all," she says, "I want to keep it all."

It's been nearly four months since two Bryan firefighters were killed and another two critically injured in a fire at the Knights of Columbus Hall off Groesbeck Street. Greg Pickard, a 32-year veteran with the Bryan Fire Department, was killed. Another firefighter, Eric Wallace, was also killed. Two others were critically injured. Investigators believe a faulty electrical cord on a fan in the kitchen may have sparked the fire. The investigation isn't finished.

Wallace and Pickard's deaths in the line of duty were the most the department had seen in over 20 years.

The morning of February 15th, Susie went to work at Kemp Elementary School. She found out that one of her student's houses had burned the night before. They lost everything. Teachers at the school were finding ways to help the family out. Susie text Greg to find out what happened.

"I asked him what he knew about the fire and he said, 'It was before I came on [duty], but I think they lost everything'," said Susie.

That night, Susie was at home and asleep.

"The door bell rang in the middle of the night, which you know, kinda gets your attention," remembers Susie. She adds the dog was going crazy barking at the late night interruption. At the door, the wife of a fellow firefighter. Susie remembers her saying that Greg had been hurt and being told to get dressed and come with her to the hospital.

Greg had been burned, badly. Doctors at St. Joseph's Regional Health System in Bryan knew they had to get him to the Blocker Burn Unit at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Susie called her daughter Robin, who lives in Houston.

"It wasn't so much scary, as, just you just can't believe this was happening," remembers Robin Carpenter, Greg and Susie's daughter.

"You're just in this alternate -- people say it's surreal and that's definitely what it is," continues Carpenter.

The inside of Greg's lungs had been burned. Doctor's spent hours in surgery trying to repair the injuries, but they were too much.

"We just all really thought they would all be okay. You know? And then when we found out about Greg. It was very sad," says Susie.

Greg died the morning of February 16th.

"When everything happened it was very shocking," recalls Jake Pickard.

"It wasn't like we were mentally prepared and said we knew this was a risk or anything. No, we were pretty dumbfounded," he continued.

Greg's son Jake works for the College Station Fire Department. On that Friday, Jake learned that he was a state certified Paramedic, a difficult task in the fire service. He text his father to let him know the good news.

"He was so excited. He said 'Awesome! Now you're a God. You can do whatever you want to!'," remembered Jake.

"I was supposed to be on shift the next day and it was amazing the amount of people that volunteered to just take my shifts so I could spend more time with my family," says Jake, of the amount of support that surrounded him and his family.

"We just miss him a lot," says Bryan Firefighter Adam Temple.

At station 1, the work of protecting the city continues. Now, with a renewed purpose.

"He would want us to move on and to do what we know how to do. How to do that job, whatever it is. To diagnose it and to make sure that we do it safely," says Temple.

"Greg taught me that situations always had middle ground," remembers Bryan Fire Lieutenant Todd Mack.

"I know that when you get fired up about something that maybe made you mad at work, Greg was the one that always calmed you down and made you see the other side of it," he continued.

"Greg was such a family man, and he was there for his wife and his kids, all the time. I think that's what people respect of him most," said an emotional Mack. It's very clear that the loss of his friend is still fresh in his mind.

Back at the Pickard house, Susie is pointing out pictures around the mantle.

"This is the night that Jake was pinned at College Station," she says, pointing to a large frame. Inside, two pictures. The top left is Greg and Jake, arms over each other's shoulders. The bottom right is Greg pinning a badge on his son. Both are in their dress blues.

"Greg was actually working that night in Bryan and they let him come over to the pinning and pin Jake," remembers Susie.

For the Pickard's, they're adjusting to a new normal.

"The morning after, in Galveston, I said we just had so many plans, you know?" remembers Susie. She remembers what Jake told her at the Hospital.

"He was like,'Mom we're going to make new plans and it's not going to be the same but we're going to have new plans' and that's all you can do," says Susie.

Susie, Robin and Jake can't thank the community enough for the support they've had over these last few months. They say there have been hard days, but they have been taken care of in more ways than they can count and they are extremely grateful.

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