Retired firefighter reflects on Capt. 'Iron Bill' Dowling

A former firefighter who survived the 2013 Southwest Inn fire reflects on his comrade, Capt. "Iron Bill" Dowling, who died on March 7.

KINGWOOD, Texas -- To look around the Kingwood apartment of Robert Yarbrough is to know a man who found his calling.

"If I could be back at the fire station, I'd be back tomorrow," he said.

Yarbrough worked for the Houston Fire Department for 32 years, and he was there that fateful day in 2013 at the Southwest Inn on Rescue Truck 42.

"There was never a better fire department than what Houston was that day," he said.

His department lost four brave men and women that day and another last week, Captain "Iron Bill" Dowling, whom the city will pay its final respects to on Wednesday.

Yarbrough is one of the men who helped get Dowling out.

"We went back to get the other ones, and as we were trying to get that, the wall fell and landed on me," he said.

Yarbrough has had 11 surgeries since then and had to retire in 2014.

He knows, though, it's been even harder for "Iron Bill" and his family, whom he didn't know from the fire department but he says he has gotten to know since.

"For four years, he has lived up to being 'Iron Bill,' and I feel for Jackie and the kids," Yarbrough said.

Since Yarbrough retired, he's been putting his efforts into educating others about firefighting at FIRST, or First in Safety Rescue Training, teaching others not only about what it takes to be one of the bravest but also what it means.

"You really can't put that into words, the way firemen feel about other firemen. There's nothing like it," Yarbrough said.

Yarbrough faces more surgeries ahead and says he takes one day at a time.

He stresses how proud he is that he was a member of the HFD that fateful day.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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