Edgar H. Grant  

March 20, 1902  -  July 2, 1929 at age 27  

 

Born :  in Houston, Texas                
Entered Fire Department:
February 18, 1928
Duty:
Fire Fighter at Station # 18  
Burie
d : Forest Park Cemetery, Lawndale, Section C, Plot 109

 

Harry L. "Red" Oxford  

July 3, 1895  -  July 3, 1929 at age 34  

 

Born: in Dallas, Texas
Entered Fire Department:
November 16, 1928
Duty:
Fire Fighter at Station # 18  
Buried:
Forest Park Cemetery, Lawndale, Section
I, Plot 143
 

From an unknow Houston news paper. 

Red Oxford lived at Station 18's. The newspaper the morning of July 4, 1929 read "Of course, I'll be good," whispered a red-haired youth through agony-clenched teeth Wednesday as his nurse admonished him to save his strength, "today's my b...irthday!" In less than an hour death had brought to a close the suffering of Harry L. (Red) Oxford, and exactly 25 years of merry-hearted, avid searching for "thrills". (One newspaper article gave his age as 34...but, in this article, his aunt said he was 25) The accident happened after midnight. "We were racing down Telephone road." said Capt. Wilson, the only one of the fire crew not to receive an injury. He was off-duty, but happened to be at firehouse. "We could see light from the blazing house in the sky. Just as we approached the tracks going at a high rate of speed, I suddenly heard a train. The next instant I saw it's headlight. It all happened in an instant. We were right upon the train and the train was upon us. As I dropped off the back of the pumper, I heard a frightful crash." It is thought that as the fire engine and the train were about to crash, Red jumped and rolled under the wheels of the train. Both legs were amputated in the crash. Lying in the hospital, he said "I've just got to untie my shoes; my legs are killing me!" He only lived about 9 hours after the wreck. Grant was dead at the scene...he had lost an arm and a leg. Capt. Little was removed from the pilot of the freight engine which had gone 40 or 50 yards. He lived for about 9 days. He suffered a fractured skull and was unconscious for most of the 9 days. His funeral was held at his home in the Heights. A newspaper article said that a double cordon of firemen formed an aisle extending a block down the street between the cars parked along the road for more than three blocks. 'The air was hazy with heat and the scent of tuberoses and carnations rolled from the windows of the home.' Capt. Little's daughter, Louise (99) was just 17 when her dad passed away. A few minutes after this crash, a pumper from 22's was swerved into a ditch by the driver trying to avoid the same train at another blocked crossing. Newspaper article said "It was late at night and the pumper was making between 40 and 45 miles an hour. It was not until they were within a few yards of the tracks that the train loomed out of the obscurity, Varner slammed on the brakes swerved into a ditch. Fireman Barbee was crouched on top of the pumper ringing the bell all unaware of the danger until the last instant. No deaths in this accident. Knowiing that firemen from Station 20's were following closely, a F.F. ran back down the road and flagged them in time to avoid a third disaster.

 

 

John Sellis Little Sr.

November 19, 1883  -  July 11, 1929 at age 46  

 

Born : in Knoxville, Tennessee                
Entered Fire Department:
June 4, 1913
Duty
: Captain at Station # 18  
Buried : Forest Park Cemetery, Lawndale, Section 27, Plot 59, Space 12 

Shortly after midnight on July 2nd 1929, Engine 18 was dispatched to a house fire at 2426 Wilshire. The fire had progressed to the point where the fire was producing a large glow in the sky.  Engine 18 took a route that would include Telephone Road and a Gulf Coast Line Railroad grade crossing.  Engine 18 and the railroad engine pulling 53 cars arrived at the crossing at the same time.  Engine 18 was broad-sided by the train.  

Edgar Grant, age 27, was a Houston firefighter for less than 6 months and was dead at the scene. Harry Oxford, was a Houston firefighter for less than a year and died the next day at Memorial Baptist on his 34th birthday.  Their Captain, John S. Little Sr., a 16 year veteran, was seriously injured and was taken to Memorial Baptist Hospital, where he underwent several operations and lost his final battle eleven days later. 

There were two other firefighters on board Engine 18 who narrowly escaped death.  Captain George “Pop” Wilson, who was one of two station captains and off duty, got on Engine 18 to ride to the fire with the crew.  He was riding on the side and was able to jump away from the collision and sustained cuts and bruises.   The chauffeur Raymond Prewit was injured and hospitalized.

After the accident, Engine 22 and Engine 20 were dispatched to take the place of Engine 18 at the house fire.  Both Engine 22 and 20 took a different route but also had to cross the same track but at the Lawndale intersection taking a chance that the train was going in the opposite direction.  However, the train had crossed the Lawndale intersection, and after colliding with Engine 18 blocked the path of the replacement engines.  The firefighters did not know this, and did not see the train’s tank cars on the crossing until the last minute. The driver of Engine 22 slid sideways into a ditch to avoid a second deadly crash.   After Engine 22 slid into the ditch, a quick thinking firefighter ran onto the street toward a fast moving Engine 20 in order to prevent a third accident. 

July of 1929, the HFD had to deal with the first multiple line of duty deaths.  You would think that another train and fire truck accident would not happen any time soon. Unfortunately, five months later in December another train and fire truck accident occurred.  Safety of the railroad grade crossing was to say the least “lacking” and would most likely be the culprit.  Many crossings were not marked and as far as my knowledge were without crossing arms. 

 

John Sellis Little Sr.

Captain Little, had obtained the rank of District Chief. He had a dispute with the administration of the fire department concerning his poll tax.  In short, he did not vote the way the administration thought he should. For this he was demoted to the rank of captain and sent to Station 18. This is what put him in the wrong place at the right time to be involve in the fatal accident. 

Chief Little fought hard for his live in Memorial Baptist Hospital for nine days, undergoing numerous operation in an effort to preserve  his  life, but losing the battle on July 11, 1929. John Little was to leave the next day after working for a family vacation.

 

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