"IRON" BILL DOWLING
"What Firefighter Aid did for our family was above and beyond anything I could have ever thought possible. They were a gift from God, and made our dream become reality. We will never be able to say thank you enough, for making beautiful memories for our family, when life has been so difficult. Our relationship with FirefighterAid will forever be cherished."
Sadly, in March of 2017, FirefighterAid learned that we lost one of our friends and heroes, Bill "Iron" Dowling. The Houston Fire Department has lost one of its bravest champions, and the nation will be remembering his commitment to service for many years to come. Iron Bill died from injuries sustained in a hotel fire that killed four of his comrades. 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 Captain 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.
We are forever grateful of the time we spent with Captain Dowling, his wife Jacki, and his children Forrest, Faith, and Foster. They will forever be part of our San Diego fire family. May Iron Bill rest in eternal peace.
Fire Captain William (Bill) Dowling of Houston Fire Department, Station 68, was one of fourteen firefighters injured in the Southwest Inn Fire on May 31, 2013. Now known as the deadliest blaze in HFD History, the fire claimed the lives of four firefighters and injured fourteen more. Captain Dowling led a rescue attempt into the structure and was pinned as the roof collapsed on top of him. Bill was fully conscious as his immobilized legs burned. When he was pulled from the flames, “Iron Bill” had only two concerns: that his fellow firefighters were alright, and that his wife Jacki be notified that he was going to be okay.
In the hospital, Bill’s condition worsened. Due to the severity of his injuries, he was placed in a medically-induced coma and had both legs amputated. Lack of oxygen had also inflicted substantial brain damage.
Iron Bill fights to get stronger, and his loving wife, Jacki, has been by his side since that fateful day in 2013. Bill and Jacki were married after he graduated from Marine Corps Boot Camp. Their first child, Forrest, was born while Bill was still an active duty Marine. In April 2014, 18-year-old Forrest Dowling graduted from Marine Corps Boot Camp, Mike Company. Bill is very proud of his son for following in his footsteps, and while he can no longer return the traditional greeting of fellow Marines, Iron Bill is working harder in rehabilitation than he did in Boot Camp almost 20 years ago.
FirefighterAid teamed up with the Wounded Warrior Project, Houston FD, Operation Oorah, and PsychArmor to bring Iron Bill and his family to San Diego in April 2014 to see Forrest become a Marine. FirefighterAid was responsible for Bill's families transportation and family events while they visted San Diego. We also raised over $2,000 at an Iron Bill inspired gym event to help pay for hotel costs and earned over $2,000 in medical help and donations while he was in America's Finest City.
A THANK YOU FROM BILL'S WIFE:
It isn't possible to articulate how grateful and humbled we are by the graciousness of FirefighterAid. My husband was catastrophically injured fighting a fire on May 31, 2013, in Houston,Texas. A trip to California, to see our son graduate from Marine Corp bootcamp, seemed nearly impossible, considering the huge amount of care my husband requires. What FirefighterAid did for our family was above and beyond anything I could have ever thought possible. They were a gift from God, and made our dream become reality. Our trip was seamlessly coordinated, all the way down to the shipping of his medical supplies and a hospital bed in his hotel room. All we had to do was enjoy our trip to sunny California! We were also catered to a baseball game, a trip to Sea World, dinner at Station 1, personal drivers for our crew, and so much more!!! We will never be able to say thank you enough, for making beautiful memories for our family, when life has been so difficult. Our relationship with FirefighterAid will forever be cherished.
IRON BILL PRESS LINKS
3/14/2017 - Houston’s “Iron Bill” Dowling Passes Away
4/25/2014 - Double-amputee Firefighgter beating the odds
4/25/2014 - MCRD Magazine
4/2014 - Iron Bill Fitness Challenge
4/2014 - MCRD Graduation photos by Bob Graham