|Agency||Alton Fire Department|
|Type of Firefighter||Career|
|Age Range||36 to 40|
|Date of Birth||4/19/1954|
|Date of Death||10/24/1992|
|Cause of Death||Struck by object|
|Nature of Death||Trauma|
|Attribute of Death||[not applicable]|
|Type of Duty||Firefighting operations , Hose operations|
On October 24, 1992, two firefighters from the Alton Fire Department died in the line of duty while combating an early morning fire in a vacant house. Captain Gary Porter, a fourteen year veteran of the fire department, and Probationary Firefighter Timmie Lewis, who had been with the department for 5 months, were killed when a wall collapsed on them during hose operations.
The fire department received the alarm for the house fire shortly before 3 AM. Within minutes, Porter and Lewis responded to the blaze with Engine Company #2. Much of the structure was already on fire when the firefighters arrived, so Porter, Lewis, and others positioned themselves between the burning house and the home directly adjacent to it to prevent the spread of the flames. At around 3:20 AM, however, the rear wall of the house collapsed, causing the second floor to fall, crushing Porter, Lewis, and Captain Dan Walter. Additional alarms were immediately called in and firefighters began search and rescue operations. Walter was rescued and transported to the hospital with severe injuries to his legs. Porter and Lewis were also recovered and transported to the hospital, but they were pronounced dead on arrival.
The circumstances surrounding the vacant house fire were deemed suspicious from the start, as the fire department had responded to several alarms at the house in recent months. Law enforcement officials and investigators from the Illinois Office of the State Fire Marshal quickly determined that the cause was arson and, within a week, the property owner and a tenant from one of his other apartments were arrested for the crime. Both individuals were sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
The funeral services for Porter and Lewis were considered to be the largest in the history of Alton. Firefighters came from 23 states and Canada and more than 100 departments sent apparatus to take part in the two-mile long funeral procession. During the funerals, firefighters from the St. Louis Fire Department covered the Alton firehouses so that the entire Alton Fire Department could attend the services.