HOUSTON -- They remember him as a solid, dependable guy who seemed to never miss work and loved his job as a Houston firefighter.
Sadly, Daniel Groover won’t see the makeshift memorial growing outside the Kingwood fire station honoring his service to a profession his friends say was in his blood.
Groover, a 21-year HFD veteran, collapsed while battling the flames spreading through the second story of a Kingwood home on a hot July afternoon. The cause of his death wasn’t immediately clear. Fellow firefighters said he seemed healthy and union leaders said he recently passed a routine physical exam.
“While we don’t know exactly what happened to the firefighter, he wasn’t burned in the fire, he wasn’t in a building collapse or anything,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “He collapsed at the fire ground. It’s considered a line of duty death because he was fighting a fire at the time. We will, of course, give him full honors.”
As HFD and union leaders planned a memorial service expected to attract firefighters from across the station and the nation, investigators continued inspecting debris at the Kingwood home where the blaze erupted. The cause of the fire remained under investigation.
Neighbors shot video recordings documenting not only the fire, but also a persistent popping noise that witnesses likened to the sound of exploding ammunition. Firefighters said they saw evidence there may have been firearms on the property, but not in the area where Groover collapsed.
Groover’s friends and colleagues remembered him as a lifelong firefighter with an especially strong work ethic, a man who had volunteered to become one of the first paramedics assigned to the fire station at Bush Intercontinental Airport.
“I think if I had to sum him up in one word it would just be solid,” said Ronnie Koonce, a retired HFD captain who was once Groover’s supervisor. “He was a solid person. He was not pretentious in any way. He was just a good guy.”
“In the two years I worked with him, I don’t think he ever called in sick,” said Ryan Lee, an HFD captain who befriended Groover. “I mean, he came to work every day. He loved coming to work.”
Friends smiled and laughed as they told stories about Groover’s enthusiasm for his side business making and selling T-shirts. Some of them remembered him as a gregarious salesman.
“It’s a personal touch when you have a brother firefighter that you knew and you worked with go down,” said Bryan Sky Eagle, the firefighter union president, whose wife worked with Groover as a paramedic. “It’s hard on me. It’s hard on the family. It’s been hard on the crew.”
Firefighting is a profession some families pass along in their blood, inspiring generations to follow their fathers’ and mothers’ footsteps into firehouses. Groover grew up with that tradition, his colleagues said.
“His dad was a captain,” Lee said.“He grew up at a fire station. He would tell me stories all the time about playing basketball with all the guys at the fire station. And you know, it definitely was a family for him. They helped raise him because, you know, holidays and different impressionable times as a kid, he would spend that at the fire station, because everyone would bring their families to the station. The fire department’s been in his blood, basically, his whole life.”
If they helped raise him, now they must help lay him to rest. A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Fellowship of The Woodlands Church. The burial will follow Monday at Houston National Cemetery in a private service.