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HOUSTON -- The Houston firefighter who collapsed of an apparent heart attack last week while responding to an apartment fire, was honored Monday as an HFD veteran who didn t lose his life, but instead gave it in service to his city.

Sr. Capt. Thomas Bill Dillion died March 14, 2012. He was approaching an apartment complex in West Houston when he suddenly fell to the ground. His fellow firefighters from Station 69 could not revive him. He was just 11 days shy of his 50th birthday.

While forensics tests have yet to prove the suspicion that a sudden heart attack took his life, statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration show he might be one more victim of a firefighter s biggest enemy. On average, 100 firefighters die in the line of duty each year in the United States.  The leading nature of fatal injury to firefighters is heart attack, on average accounting for 44 percent of firefighter deaths. Asphyxia and burns, in comparison, account for 20 percent of firefighter fatalities.

He s a great man, just always there for everybody, said his friend, Jr. Captain Steven Suarez, during the memorial service at Second Baptist Church in Katy. I wish he was still here, because I had a lot more to learn from him.

Bill was a firefighter through and through, said his friend and pastor, Wayne Martin, of Bridge Point Bible Church. A jokester, an easy laugh, a man who loved his job.

Sr. Captain Thomas Dillion died in the line of duty protecting and serving, and we will never forget him, said HFD Chief Terry Garrison.

Dillion is survived by three children, ages 26, 17 and 15. They led the procession prior to the funeral, while holding their father s fire helmet. The service ended with Dillion s casket loaded onto the back of Engine 69 for his final trip to the cemetery.

The Dillion family and the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association asked that in lieu of flowers, anyone wishing to help the family send donations to the 100 Club. The 100 Club, an organization that offers assistance to the survivors of fallen firefighters and police officers, announced that donations are being accepted to its Survivors Fund to help the Dillion family. Contributions can be made at 100club.org or mailed to: 100 Club Survivor s Fund; 5555 San Felipe St; Ste 520, Houston TX 77056-2733.

One-hundred percent of Survivor s Fund donations go to the dependents of law-enforcement officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.

Sr. Captain Thomas Bill Dillion was the 64th Houston firefighter to die in the line of duty in the history of the Houston Fire Department.

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