HOUSTON - A fire captain from with local ties who was injured battling a 5-alarm blaze at a southwest Houston motel that killed four of his comrades will be released from the hospital on Wednesday, according to the Houston Fire Department.
HFD units and personnel will line the streets to salute Captain Bill Dowling as he leaves Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center and finally head home. Engine 68 will carry the captain down North Macgregor Way to Highway 288, then on to I-45 North. Volunteer Fire Departments will also be staged along the route outside the city limits.
Captain Dowling lost both of his legs and suffered brain damage after getting trapped in the fire on May 31, which has become known as the deadliest day in the Houston Fire Department’s 118-year history.
Dowling was trapped in the fire with his legs pinned by burning debris. He was awake and alert when he was rescued and shouted to his fellow firefighters to let his wife know he would be okay, but his condition began to worsen soon after. After the medical amputation and he began to awake from several weeks of sedation, it became apparent that he suffered hypoxia. The condition left him barely able to communicate.
His colleagues from Houston Fire Department Station 68 drove their ambulance to Memorial Hermann Hospital to personally transfer Dowling to the rehabilitation facility at TIRR, the same facility where Congresswoman Gabby Giffords underwent rehabilitation.
After months of rehab, the captain is now being allowed to return to the comforts of his own home, but he still has a long road of recovery ahead.
Dowling's parents grew up in College Station and his family members have been keeping up with his progress.
Killed in the Southwest Inn fire were: Capt. Matthew Renaud, 35, who had been with the department for 11 ½ years; engineer operator Robert Bebee, 41, who joined the department almost 12 years ago; firefighter Robert Garner, 29, who joined the department 2 ½ years ago; and Anne Sullivan, 24, a probationary firefighter who had graduated in April from the Houston Fire Department Academy.
Thirteen firefighters in total were injured. Firefighters Anthony Livesay and Robert Yarbrough were seriously injured in the fire, but they fought against the pain and were released from the hospital to attend the memorial for their fallen comrades.