A Final Tribute to Firefighter's Passion for Duty

Kyle R. Wilson, 24, the first firefighter to die in the Prince William department's 41-year history, is saluted by members of his station.
Kyle R. Wilson, 24, the first firefighter to die in the Prince William department's 41-year history, is saluted by members of his station. "He passed away doing what he loved," said Kelli Wilson, the firefighter's sister. (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)

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By Maria Glod and Theresa Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, April 22, 2007

Hundreds of firefighters stood in silence and saluted.

They had gathered to honor a rookie Prince William County firefighter who died Monday as he searched a burning house to make sure no one was trapped inside.

The family in that Woodbridge home had escaped, but Kyle R. Wilson, 24, and his fellow firefighters did not know that. When the blaze, fueled by fierce winds, suddenly intensified, he was trapped.

Wilson was the first Prince William firefighter to die in the line of duty in the department's 41-year history.

Family members, friends and colleagues gathered yesterday at Nissan Pavilion to remember Wilson as a dedicated firefighter and a loving son and brother who made everyone smile with silly dancing and jokes.

"I can only hope that I find something to be as passionate about as Kyle was about firefighting," said his sister, Kelli Wilson. "He passed away doing what he loved, and he will always be my hero."

Officials still do not know what sparked the blaze that gutted the home on Marsh Overlook Drive. But in a preliminary review of the incident released this week, officials offered a chilling account of a fire that turned deadly within moments.

According to the report, the firefighters were called to the house at 6:03 a.m. Wilson's crew, No. 512 from the Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton (OWL) Station 12, arrived six minutes later. Flames were making their way up the side and the back of the home.

Vehicles were still in the driveway and the garage, officials said, leading firefighters to believe the family of seven might still be inside.

Wilson and Lt. Jason Reese went to the second floor. At first, there was little smoke, and they could see clearly.

The two were looking in the master bedroom when the door slammed shut, according to the report. They opened it to continue their search on that floor and were met by drastically different conditions. Visibility was zero, and the heat was extraordinarily intense. They tried to get out immediately.

The fire was unrelenting.

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