Denison Firefighter Dies in Line of Duty

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12-30-06 A Denison firefighter died in the line of duty Saturday morning. Officials say Phillip Townsend was fighting a fire at an appliance store at the intersection of Crockett and Munson streets in Denison.

The awning of that building collapsed, pinning Townsend and Fire Chief Gordan Weger underneath the debris. Both men were taken to TMC in Denison, where Townsend later died.

Weger sustained minor injuries and is expected to make a full recovery. After his release from the hospital, Weger was back on the job helping his department cope with the loss of one of their own.

31-year-old Phillip Townsend joined the Denison Fire Department back on December 1, 2005, almost 13 months ago. Becoming a firefighter was a family affair for Townsend. His father, Larry is also a Denison firefighter. The pair were both assigned to Central Fire Station downtown, and worked on the same shift.

The initial call came through 911 dispatchers around 8:45am Saturday morning and crews were on the scene within minutes. But at 9:17am, the a "Man Down" call came over fire radios.

Chief Weger says he and Townsend were working a water nozzle just under an overhang in front of the burning structure when, without warning it collapsed.

Eyewitnesses say everyone's attention turned to the two men trapped beneath the rubble. Some claimed people were digging through the burning debris with their hands to try and free Townsend.

Hours after the incident, most of the firefighters returned to Central Fire Station in downtown Denison.

So far, there is no word on the cause of the fire. Investigators from the State Fire Marshal's Office are in Denison compiling information.

Chief Gordan Weger says the awning collapsed around him, forming a kind of cubby hole or crawl space. Weger believes that cove saved his life.

Townsend served in the military and is survived by a host of family members, including 3 children. Authorities say an autopsy has been ordered to confirm the exact cause of death.

Fire officials say a memorial for Townsend could be scheduled as early as Tuesday, but no firm plans have been released to the public.

Townsend is the second firefighter killed in the line of duty in Denison. In 1989, T.O. Fulce died while fighting a blaze at a downtown business.