On August 21, 1981, an early morning fire breaks out in a large Dallas home. This is the story of the men who fought the fire and the tragic consequences of that incident.
Line of Duty Death
The year is 1963. Bud Massie and Joe Jones are both Dallas firefighters and both they, and their wives Marsha and Betty, are close friends. On Monday, August 26, Bud and Joe are riding Truck 15 in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas, Texas while Marsha and Betty are spending the day together The regular Truck 15 is in the shop, so they are riding on a 27 year old reserve truck. The truck, pictured above when it was new, was known as the Centennial truck because it was purchased for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exhibition and World’s Fair which was held at Fair Park in Dallas. This is a story of tragedy told, not from a firefighter perspective, but from a family member perspective, because a line of duty death does not occur in a vacuum; like a stone cast in a pond, the ripples expand outward.
You can hear the story by clicking the green arrow in the audio player below, or you can listen on your mobile device wherever you get your music and podcasts (Apple, Amazon, Spotify, etc); just search for “Firefighting Legends”.
Also, if you are on the “Latest Posts” page, you will need to click on the post title “Sound of a Siren” or the post photo (the one of the truck at the top) to go to the “Sound of a Siren” page that shows all the newspaper articles.
In the early 1900’s, Bert and Boyd Burris move from Indiana to Texas and join the Dallas Fire Department. Another firefighter, E.O. Jones rises through the ranks to become an Assistant Chief. The men have a date with destiny awaiting them at the Texas Wheel and Body Fire in 1923. Listen to the podcast for the full story. Related photographs and a map are below the audio player.
Below: Photograph of Bert Burris, killed at the Texas Wheel & Body Fire on Commerce Street in Dallas in 1923.
Also killed at the same fire was Chief E.O. Jones, aka Charles Jones, Charlie Jones and Cap Jones.
Photograph of the station from which Bert Burris answered his last alarm. At that time it was called the “Fair Park Fire Station” and he responded on Engine 10. It later came to be called Station #5. The building still stands, but is now the home of the Dallas Firefighters Museum.
Little is known about this photograph from the Dallas Firefighter Museum Archives, but there are a few things we can deduce. 4th from right is Chief Magee who was the Chief of the Department in the early 1900’s until his retirement in 1919. The station is believed to be “old Central”. The man in suspenders to the right of the boxers is very likely to be Chief E.O. “Charlie” Jones.
Our guest for this episode: Chaplain Denny Burris, Retired DFD Chaplain, grandson of Boyd Burris and great-nephew of Bert Burris.
This podcast episode, One Fireman’s Story, discusses the deadly Golden Pheasant Fire of 1964 and it recites the letter from the Terrie Pinkerton who donated to the Dallas Firefighter’s Museum the strap pictured above which is related to that fire.
One Fireman’s Story
Ronald J. Pinkerton served on the Dallas Fire Department for 35 years. He fought many fires, but there was one fire in particular that haunted him his entire life, the Golden Pheasant restaurant fire on February 16, 1964.
Four firemen lost their lives that day and ten children lost their fathers. Jerry Henderson was one of the firemen who perished, and he was the father of five children. Ronald Pinkerton was one of the firemen who helped to bring Henderson’s body out of the rubble that day. We only know of his version of the story as it was told to his oldest granddaughter about two months before he passed away, and he wept when he told it. Pinkerton told his family many fireman stories over the years, but he never told any of them the story about Henderson’s helmt strap. We think he felt a connection to Henderson because Pinkerton himself had four young children at the time of the fire.
The item you see is the helmet strap my father, Ronald Pinkerton cut from Jerry Henderson when they removed his body from the debris of the Golden Pheasant fire. He stated he does not know why he did it, but he kept it for the rest of his life. I am guessing that he told my daughter the story knowing we would find it someday, and I did.
At the request of the Henderson family, we are honored to leave the strap in the care of the Dallas Firefighter’s Museum. We express our deep gratitude to Elaine Maddox, Dallas Fire & Rescue Chaplain, for helping us to make this happen. Captain Pinkerton shared the story with Elaine in 1995 which she told us about while planning his funeral services. He passed away on November 16, 2014.
Jerry Henderson and Ronald Pinkerton did not even know each other.
By: Terrie Pinkerton, Captain Ronald Pinkerton’s oldest daughter
I would like to add that the Dallas Firefighter’s Museum has a new display dedicated to those lost in the Golden Pheasant Fire and that display includes this shadow box. Although the museum remains closed due to Covid-19 at the time of this post (December 2020), you are invited to come see it when the museum re-opens.
Below are photographs from the scene of the fatal fire.