S.A. FIREFIGHTER LINE OF DUTY DEATHS
We honor those who have sacrificed everything for the safety of San Antonio's citizens. As professional firefighters and paramedics, we all know what we've signed up to do ... but that doesn't make the losses of our fellow brothers and sisters any easier. Below are the names of our fallen friends who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty to protect our great city of San Antonio and the families that reside within it.
Special thanks to Alamo Area Fire and Police Memorial Web developers, Hector J. Cardenas, Retired, San Antonio Fire Department, and Domingo Guerrero, B.A. in History at St. Mary's University, who laboriously compiled much of the information provided below.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF...
Jesse F. Bricker, Jr.
Fire Apparatus Operator
May 4, 1997
Fire Apparatus Operator Jesse F. Bricker, Jr., 47, died as a result of cardiac arrest that was exacerbated by stress and smoke inhalation that occurred while fighting a fourth alarm motel fire. After returning from the fire, FAO Bricker complained of not feeling well. He was transported to the hospital that morning at 5:56 a.m. in severe respiratory distress. He died at approximately 4:38 p.m. Other personnel also suffered from various symptoms as a result of exposure to fire and smoke. The following day, an environmental consultant was directed to sample and analyze the scene and clothing worn by firefighters. FAO Jesse Bricker was survived by his wife and daughter.
James S. Boullosa
Sept. 11, 1988
Lieutenant James S. Boullosa, 45, was in charge of Engine Company 28 when he responded to a fire in a residence. Lieutenant Boullosa was overcome by smoke while fighting the fire and transported from the fire ground to the Baptist Memorial Hospital by EMS. During transport the Lieutenant went into full cardiac arrest. He was resuscitated in the ambulance by the paramedics and rushed to the Emergency Room. Lieutenant Boullosa continued to suffer cardiac problems and it was not known whether he would survive the night. Eventually the Lieutenant pulled through, but not without permanent damage to his heart. Lieutenant Boullosa went through a long recuperation period and was heard to say that he would not let his impairment stop him from performing a vital function for the Fire Department. He was assigned to Fire Alarm where he served as Shift Supervisor for his shift for almost nine years until his injury took him from his family and the Fire Department on September 11, 1988. Lieutenant Boullosa was survived by his wife Margaret, sons Jim and David and daughter Stephanie.
Ernest A. Flores
March 22, 1987
Engine Company #22 with Lieutenant Ernest A. Flores, 62, in charge responded to reports of a smell of ammonia at the L&H Packing Plant. His company was ordered to lay a line to the warehouse to spray down the ammonia gas leak. During the layout of the lines on the shoulder of the 3400 block of Roosevelt, Lieutenant Flores lost his grip while getting on the running board and fell beneath the 13 ton truck's wheels. He died instantly at the scene.
Charles A. Edwards
Jan. 18, 1976
Captain Charles A. Edwards, 62, a 39-year veteran of the San Antonio Fire Department, suffered a heat attack while fighting a large grass fire in the 2300 block of Nopal Street. Captain Edwards was treated at the scene by EMS and transported to Brook Army Medical Center in critical condition. He died at 2 a.m. the following morning. Captain Edwards was survived by his wife, two children, his mother, two sisters, one brother and six grandchildren.
May 8, 1975
On the evening of May 8, 1975, San Antonio was lashed by severe thunderstorms that brought with them high winds of up to 60 miles per hour, hail and tornado sightings. Lieutenant Willie Ojeda, 43, was working a 12-hour overtime shift on Engine Co. Station 24 when his engine company was dispatched to a high water rescue alarm at the intersection of Rittiman Road and Vandiver. When they arrived they found a 29-year old man trapped in the swollen stream and standing on top of his car, which had stalled in the swift water. The rescue proved difficult and called for Lieutenant Ojeda to venture into the water to tie the man to a rescue rope. Lieutenant Ojeda's crew and some bystanders helped pull the man to shore with some difficulty. While they were rescuing the stranded motorist, Terrill Hills Patrolman H. Yates stated that he saw a boy approximately 12 years old in distress, floating down the swift current holding onto what appeared to be an inner tube. Officer Yates stated that he saw Lieutenent Ojeda, holding onto the bridge cable, proceed quickly in a diagonal direction to the creek in an attempt to intercept the youngster as he floated by. Lieutenant Ojeda and the boy were swept into the rushing waters. The firefighters reported that they lost sight of both Lieutenant Ojeda and the boy in the driving rain. A massive rescue operation began including several county and city agencies using helicopters. Sadly, the Lieutenant lost his life in the heroic rescue attempt. The crew of Station 9's truck found Lieutenant Ojeda's body one mile downstream at the Ft. Sam Houston golf course. The body of the boy was never found. No reports of a missing child were ever made to police. Lieutenant Ojeda's wife, daughter and son, Robert Ojeda, who is now the Chief of the Fire Department, survived him. Robert Ojeda had joined the ranks of the Fire Department only two years before his father lost his life. Lieutenant Willie Ojeda lies at rest at San Jose Burial Park.
August 14, 1973
Lieutenant Charles Ehrlich, 43, commanded the Engine Company out of #8 Firehouse. He was well known for his firefighting abilities. In the early afternoon of August 14th, 1973, Engine #8 and Truck #8 responded to a regular alarm for a dwelling fire in the 200 block of North Richter. Upon arrival the companies found a small abandoned structure fully charged with acrid thick smoke. Breathing apparatus were not in use at this time. Lieutenant Ehrlich recognized the smell and instructed his crew that it was a mattress fire. He entered through the front door leading both crews through the smoke in search of the mattress. He quickly located one and pulled it out of the home and returned to help his crew find more. All in all there were six burning mattresses pulled and extinguished from the dilapidated home. No sooner had the #8 crews returned to quarters when Lieutenant. Ehrlich became ill. The District Chief was summoned and he rushed the Lieutenant to the Baptist Memorial Hospital. The veteran firefighter did not survive and succumbed to a heart attack. Lieutenant Ehrlich was survived by his wife, Gloria; five daughters, Shirley, Cynthia, JoAnn, Judy and Nancy; mother, Stella; brother, Frank; and five sisters, Margaret, Alice, Della, Lucilla, and Frances.
Joe G. Ramirez
January 8, 1966
Firefighter Joe G. Ramirez, 46, a decorated 17-year veteran of the SAFD responded to a multiple alarm blaze on the afternoon of Saturday January 8, 1966. He and his company, Engine #10, responded were dispatched on the second alarm of what became a three-alarm fire. In the process of fighting the fire at 1301 W. Martin, near Salado Street, firefighter Ramirez was overcome by heavy smoke and collapsed. Firefighter Charles Havel was manning the line inside the warehouse with Ramirez. When the smoke became too intense, Havel yelled out to Ramirez, "Let's get out of here, Joe" but Ramirez did not respond and fell onto firefighter Havel. Ramirez was brought out of the building covered in wet ashes. He was given immediate medical attention at the scene and Father Cecil Barron of St. Franciso DiPaola Church administered last rites to firefighter Ramirez as he was being given oxygen. Firefighter Ramirez was pronounced dead upon arrival at Santa Rosa Hospital. Firefighter Joe Ramirez was called, "One of the best" by other firefighters and had the reputation for always being out on the front line of a fire. Ramirez was the recipient of The Fireman of the Year Award in 1963. The fire that killed Ramirez also injured several other firefighters. Lieutenant Charles Ehrlich was one of the injured. Lieutenant Ehrlich was killed in the line of duty seven years later. Ramirez was laid to rest at Fort Sam National Cemetery and was survived by his wife and two children.
July 3, 1963
While on duty at Fire Station No. 9, Firefighter Ramiro Rivera, 39, lost his grip while sliding down one of the station's fire poles and fell 18 feet. He was rushed to the Santa Rosa Hospital where he later died from his injuries. Firefighter Rivera was a 15-year veteran of the San Antonio Fire Department. He was buried at Fort Sam National Cemetery.
Walter A. Kalisky
August 28, 1955
On the hot Sunday afternoon of August 28, 1955, the alarm at Fire Station 7 for the Bactex Company warehouse. Engineer Walter A. Kalisky, 49, knew the address well as he drove his crew to the Medina Street warehouse along the tracks. Fireman laid supply lines and stretched attack lines into the smoke. The fire was brought under control with a monetary loss of $22,000. The greater loss was that of Engineer Kalisky's life. Kalisky was stricken while engaged in pumping operations at the warehouse fire. Fireman Elmer C. Huegley and Police Officer W. B. King administered artificial respiration, but the veteran fireman was pronounced dead on arrival at Santa Rosa Hospital. Engineer Walter A. Kalisky had a great love for his family and enjoyed fishing. He was survived by his wife AnnaBell, and sons Leroy, Marvin, Milton, Allen and Wayne. Kalisky made his home at 1424 W. French.
John R. Rodriguez
November 13, 1950
Lieutenant John R. Rodriguez, 48, and his crew responded to a regular alarm fire at the Handy Andy supermarket at the corner of Woodlawn and Fredericksburg Rd. Lt. Rodriguez, was serving as Acting Captain for the shift, was seen standing by one of the fire trucks after the fire was extinguished when he collapsed. He was transported to Santa Rosa Hospital and pronounced dead on arrival shortly before midnight.
Alfred S. Gassman
January 22, 1943
Captain Steven Gassmann, 49, had recently been promoted to Junior Captain when he met his untimely death. He was in charge of Truck #3 at Fire Station 7 when the trip sounded a regular alarm on South Gevers on January 19, 1943. Captain Gassmann, siren blaring and bell clanging, rolled down South Hackberry with a full compliment of fireman. Hanging on the running board was rookie fireman Henry E. Martinez. As the large red ladder truck approached Aransas it collided forcefully into a butane truck that ignored the emergency vehicle's warnings. After the impact Captain Gassmann's truck careened and crashed into a deserted filling station at Denver and Hackberry. Fireman Martinez, the rookie, was killed instantly when he was thrown to the pavement before Captain Gassmann's eyes. Captain Gassmann sustained injuries to his legs, back and arms. He was transported to the hospital, treated and released. He returned to the hospital on the Jan. 22 complaining of chest and leg pain. He died very soon after. It is believed that he was felled by a blood clot formed by his injuries. Captain Gassmann joined Martinez in final rest at San Fernando Cemetery #2. Captain Alfred G. Gassmann was survived by his wife Bertha and daughters Alice Marie, Margaret Claire and Mary Cecilia.
Henry E. Martinez
January 19, 1943
Fireman Henry E. Martinez, 30, was killed when Ladder Truck 3 from Station No. 7, a truck loaded with butane, and a private auto were involved in a three-way collision at Arkansas Avenue and South Hackberry on a cold January 19, 1943. The novice fireman was killed instantly when he was thrown to the pavement from the ladder trucks running board. Truck 3 responded out of Fire Station 7 at 604 South Alamo to a regular alarm on South Gevers and was headed south on Hackberry when it collided with the gas truck and smashed into a deserted filling station at Denver and Hackberry. Captain Alfred S. Gassman, 49, who was in charge of the truck died on January 22, 1943 from injuries he suffered in the same collision. Fireman Henry E. Martinez was survived by his wife Juanita, son Henry and daughter Eliza. He was buried at San Fernando Cemetery No. 2.
August W. Wagner
August 6, 1937
While responding to a regular alarm at the Southern Welding Company, Fireman August W. Wagner, 25, was fatally injured when the fire truck Engine 3 he was responding on collided head-on with Engine 7 at the intersection of East Commerce and Water Street. Engine 7 was traveling north on Water Street at a high rate of speed and Engine 3 was running west on Commerce when it plowed into Engine 7. The impact was so forceful that Engine 3 overturned and landed on top of the other fire truck. A total of 10 firefighters were injured in this accident. An investigation revealed that the fire they were responding to had been extinguished well before any fire company arrived on scene. Fireman Wagner was laid to rest at Roselawn Cemetery just two days before what would have been his 26th birthday. Fireman Wagner was survived by his wife, two brothers, and three sisters.
Herman J. Kneupper
Fireman Herman J. Kneupper, 34, lost his life while responding to an emergency call out of Fire Station 13. When the alarm was sounded, Kneupper, who was the assistant chauffer, took his position on the running board next to the driver. As apparatus entered South Hackberry from Warwick Boulevard an automobile hit the truck and both vehicles overturned. The crew of six was thrown from the truck and Kneupper was pinned between the truck and the curb. Immediately after the collision, filling station operators at the corner summoned help and the truck was lifted off of fireman Kneupper. Kneupper's crew members were rushed to the hospital. Kneupper's was the sole fatality of the accident. Kneupper had telephoned his wife to tell her he would be home in a little while just a few minutes before he climbed on the running board of 13's, with sirens screaming, taking him to his last alarm. He was survived by his wife, Agnes, daughter, Evelyn and son, Herman Jr.
Claude A. Ratterree
Chief Bishop's Chauffer
January 1, 1918
Claude A. Ratterree, 22, Chief Bishop's Chauffer, was involved in a collision with Engine #7 during an emergency response with the Fire Chief to a house fire on the east side of town. His car crashed through a display window at Joske's. Chauffer Ratterree was ejected from the car and suffered a fractured skull. Alive but unconscious, the injured chauffer was carried by two San Antonio Police Officers to a car and rushed to Robert B. Green Memorial Hospital where he died the day after the accident at 5:20 am on Tuesday January 1, 1918, having never regained consciousness. Chief of the Department William Bishop and Lt. Robert W. Kopplin were also killed in this tragic accident. Chauffer Ratterree was survived by his mother.
Robert W. Kopplin
December 31, 1917
While responding to a call for a house on fire, Lieutenant Robert W. Kopplin, 31, was killed when his engine, Engine No. 7, collided with Fire Chief William Bishop's car at the intersection of E. Commerce and Alamo. Lieutenant Kopplin was riding on the rear tailboard of the engine when the accident occurred. The impact hurled the veteran firefighter over the top of the apparatus and his body struck the pavement. He was pronounced dead at the scene. San Antonio Fire Department Fire Chief William Bishop and his chauffer, Claude A. Ratterree, were also killed in this city's worst emergency vehicle accident. Lieutenant Kopplin's remains lie in the Fireman's Grave at City Cemetery #4. Lieutenant Robert W. Kopplin was survived by his wife, two daughters, his parents, and one sister.
Will P. Bishop
December 31, 1917
While responding to regular alarm for a house fire, Chief Will P. Bishop, 27, was in an open cab Locomobile which collided with Engine Company No. 7 at the intersection of East Commerce and Alamo. The Chief was sitting in the front passenger side of the vehicle when #7's motor hit the car broadside. Chief Bishop was crushed by the truck and pronounced dead at the scene. Two other firefighters, Lieutenant Robert W. Kopplin and Firefighter Claude A. Ratterree were also killed along with a 10-year-old bystander. Chief Bishop, who had served as Fire Chief since 1911, was buried at Anchor Masonic Cemetery. Chief Bishop was survived by his wife, two sisters, and one brother.
Gilbert L. Hovey
First Assistant Chief
August 14, 1915
First Assistant Chief Gilbert L. Hovey, 36, died in an automobile accident when the steering gear broke on his car while answering an alarm. Chief Hovey was acting Fire Chief in the absence of Chief Phil Wright. Both Hovey and his chauffer, C. L. Burtner, were responding to a blaze in the 100 block of Drexel and traveling about 35 to 45 miles per hour when the heavy vehicle's steering went out and the heavy car bounded over a curb and struck a telephone pole at S. Presa and Dunning. Driver Burtner stated that when he lost control of the steering, he told Chief Hovey to jump and believed he was attempting to when the impact occurred. Chief Hovey was caught under the wreckage. He was extricated by arriving firemen and carried to the home of Dr. L. Jackson, 2327 South Presa, where he expired a few minutes later. The death of Chief Hovey was the first to occur in the San Antonio Fire Department as a direct result of motorizing fire apparatus. Every man in the Fire Department held Chief Hovey in high esteem. He had recently been promoted and had received his full-dress chief uniform only hours before the accident. The Chief's funeral procession was lead by the Chief's buggy and drawn by Chief Hovey's favorite horse, Bryan. Even after motor equipment was put into the fire service, Chief Hovey continued to respond to alarms with Bryan. The veteran Fire Department horse, lead by fireman C. C. Noll, drew the unoccupied buggy symbolizing the loss of one of this Department's most beloved leaders. His wife, Lula, and ten year old son, Jerry, survived Chief Hovey. They resided at 318 Idaho.
January 20, 1908
Fireman John Crivelli, 27, was one of four firefighters injured while responding to a small stove fire at Daniels and South Flores. The injured firemen were responding out of Engine House #6 at South Alamo and Lavaca when their horse drawn hose wagon overturned at South Presa St. and South Alamo Streets. Witnesses at the scene stated that the wagon's wheels hit and slid along the streetcar tracks causing the wagon to overturn spilling the four firefighters onto the street. Fireman Crivelli's head hit one of the tracks and rendered him unconscious. He was taken to a nearby drug store where a physician was summoned and his wounds were dressed. He was transported to Santa Rosa Hospital and succumbed to his fatal injury on January 20, 1908 at the city hospital. Fireman John Crivelli was survived by his father, three brothers and a sister. He resided with his father on Milam Street.