Friday, April 16, 2010

Remembering the Fallen

July 23, 1916, one month after Austinites voted to pay for a professional fire department, they suffered their first tragedy.

While fighting a fire at the Kreisle building a wall collapsed onto Fire Fighter James T. Glass and 3 of his brothers. They were all seriously injured. All but Glass were able to return to duty. James had worn badge number 13.

His spine was crushed and he was paralyzed from the waist down. He was 25 years old.

He remained at City Hospital (now known as Brackenridge) for more than a year before succumbing to his injuries. He never married or had children and he gave his life in service to our fair City.

The Kreisle Building still stands at 414 Congress. The fire department has grown from the 26 men that worked with James to more than 1,000.

What you won't find in the City of Austin is a monument or a plaque honoring his sacrifice or even a headstone to mark James' grave.

Station 1 houses 3 units. Engine 1, Quint 1 and Engine 50. As the City grows Engine 50 has been renamed several times. It has during its life also been known as Engine 130 and Engine 30. The time to rename the unit again approached at the end of last year.

Hero Husband is the Lieutenant on Engine 50 and when he got word of the change he made the suggestion that rather than face the same problem 10 years from now it should be numbered Engine 13. A number that had been skipped earlier in the departments history either from superstition or in deference to James' sacrifice. Some voiced worry that James' badge number had been retired or that naming a unit 13 would be a "bad idea".

Many months, meetings, emails and phone calls later if you were to walk by the corner of 5th and Trinity you will find a beautiful new fire engine emblazoned with the number 13.

It did not come easy, but now this first of the fallen will be remembered and 13 is feeling like a pretty lucky number to me.

A plaque will be dedicated this weekend and placed on the unit honoring James and the museum committee is also raising funds to place a marker at his gravesite.


  1. That's incredible--you have a pretty awesome husband, but I suppose you already knew that. :)

  2. Thanks Michele! I do know it that's for sure!

  3. Wow! That is really awesome!