Incident Name: Empire Fire
Date: 03/1/06, 1657 hrs; Died 03/24/06
Personnel: John Destry Horton
Agency/Organization: Acme Fire Department, Chickasha, OK
Position: Volunteer, Firefighter/Paramedic
Summary: Firefighter/Paramedic Horton and the members of his fire department were dispatched to a wildland fire as mutual-aid to the Duncan Fire Department. Upon their arrival on the scene, Firefighter/Paramedic Horton and another Acme firefighter were assigned to attack a portion of the fire.
Horton drove the brush apparatus from a burned portion of land to an unburned area to access another approach to the fire. He was wearing structural firefighting protective trousers but no other protective clothing. The apparatus was being turned around when a sudden wind shift occurred. As he attempted to drive to an area of safety, the fire overtook Horton’s apparatus.
Horton then left the cab of the apparatus to provide assistance to the other Acme firefighter. In the process, his helmet fell off and he received severe upper body burns, burns to his feet, and respiratory burns.
Firefighter/Paramedic Horton was transported by medical helicopter to a regional burn center in Oklahoma City. Horton died as a result of his burns on March 24, 2006 at 2130hrs. The cause of death was listed as multisystem organ failure.
In addition to his membership in the Acme Fire Department, Firefighter/Paramedic Horton was a career firefighter with the Chickasha Fire Department.
- Lives Lost Lessons Learned -- The 2005 -2006 Texas and Oklahoma Wildfires (4.56 MB pdf). For Destry Horton's story, scroll down to page 36. For Lessons Learned, see pages 42-45.
- From the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center: "Oh It's Just a Grass Fire" Firefighter Remember This", Series 2 video. Destry Horton's story and lessons learned begin about 10 minutes into the video.
- Concerns raised for continuing intense grass fires in OK and TX: Texas FirestormsYou Tube from TFS Southern Plains Outbreak Weather Pattern Fires with footage from 2005-06 firestorms and a description of the pattern that was identified. A "MUST SEE".
- NIOSH Report: Volunteer Fire Fighter is Killed and Another Volunteer Fire Fighter is Injured at a Wildland/Urban Interface Fire - Oklahoma
- USFA Database: John Destry Horton
- Remembering a fallen firefighter
From Chikasha News: Link to Online Article
Staff and Wire Reports The Chickasha Express Star
Fri Mar 31, 2006, 11:01 AM CST
CHICKASHA — They came from down the road, around the state and across the country. As many as 3,000 people flocked to the various churches in town who were broadcasting the service for fallen firefighter Destry Horton via satellite hookup on Thursday. They came to bid farewell. The funeral was held at Grand Assembly of God where Horton served as worship leader. His family, fellow firefighters and emergency services workers and state officials attended the service.
To accommodate the crowds who wanted to attend the funeral, four local churches volunteered their auditoriums. Trinity Baptist Church was filled with firefighters and emergency personnel. First Baptist Church, College Heights Baptist Church, and Epworth United Methodist Church were open to the public, all four churches broadcasted the service.
Horton, who died Friday from burns he suffered while battling a wildfire in Stephens County, one of hundreds that have scarred the Oklahoma landscape since November. Horton, 32, was volunteering for the Acme fire department and was with another firefighter when they entered a smoke-filled area near Duncan and their fire truck got stuck March 1.
His flag-draped casket was brought to the church by a Chickasha fire engine. His colleagues carefully lowered his coffin to the ground and walked in pairs behind it as it was wheeled into the auditorium. He was remembered Thursday in words, images and music as a man of God, a loving husband and father and an all-around lively guy.
“Destry was so active all over his life that I looked around the house and could see all the things he needed to do and didn't get finished,” his widow, Brandy, said as those in the auditorium burst into laughter.
Brandy Horton spoke to the couple's two daughters, Kiley and McKenzie. “Your daddy loves you so much. No matter what, I will always see your daddy in your laughter,” she said. She recalled the last 23 days of her husband's life and said she saw how the burns had taken much of his body, but he could still speak. “Today I'm still asking for my miracle. John Destry Horton, come forth in the name of Jesus,” she said, over and over.
Firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement officers, including some from New York and Texas, filled the aisles of the church during the ceremony. Most were wearing buttons that spelled “Destry,” with each letter having a meaning: Dedicated, Example, Smile, Truly, Respected and Yes.
Emergency vehicles from all over Oklahoma lined the parking lot and streets surrounding the church building. As they exited the parking lot, vehicles passed under two fire trucks that had their ladders raised and crossed in a sign of tribute.
Tears welled in the eyes of New York City firefighter Richard Schmidt as he explained to reporters that he traveled to Oklahoma out of respect. “We wanted to be here for them the way they supported us” after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said Schmidt, from Fire Rescue No. 4 in the Bronx. “But it brings up sad memories.”
Jeremiah Hoffstatter and members of the volunteer fire crew from Ripley drove two hours from Payne County to attend the service. “Whether you know him or not, he's still your brother,” he said. Hoffstatter said he is mindful of what happened to Horton but said such risk comes with the job. “As much training as you may get, you can't predict how a fire will go,” Hoffstatter said.
People parked their vehicles, some of which featured American flags flying, along U.S. Highway 81 as the funeral procession headed from Chickasha to a cemetery in Rush Springs. A man played “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes as three helicopters flew overhead.
Chickasha Fire Chief Ronnie Kessler said he was humbled by the outpouring of sympathy from the firefighting community and the general public. “Destry was a fine young man,” Kessler said at the cemetery. “It's a terrible loss to the fire service for him not to be around any more.”
- A Tribute, From Jeri Thomas: Destry's Story
- Guest Book: for Destry Horton
- Firefighters, Friends And Kin Remember Destry Horton: Fire Fighting News
- Remembering Destry through wildlandfire training: Held at Oklahoma State University on Feb 19. 2011 and listed on the wildlandfire.com hotlist training calendar.
Contributors to this article: Tim Stubbs (NMAirBear)
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