News & Updates
The Latest News & Updates on the Rotary Fire Fighters Home

Can a cancer registry keep firefighters safe?

By GV Krishnan | July 4, 2019

A new US cancer database – the Firefighter Cancer Registry which was fully funded by Congress in June – aims to track the careers and health histories of thousands of firefighters in order to better understand the link between emergency work and disease, writes Victoria Oldridge.

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Rotarians raise funds to house firefighters fighting cancer By Karen Zurawski

By GV Krishnan |

A rubber duck race on July 13 at the Omni Houston Hotel Westside will raise funds for the Rotary Fire Fighters Home (RFFH).

It is one of several fundraisers planned for the nonprofit group organized by the Rotary Club of University Area Houston seven years ago, said Jerry Harris, Rotarian and gala sponsor chair. The home provides free lodging for firefighters fighting cancer as they are treated at the Texas Medical Center.

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Firefighter Cancer Registry Act

By GV Krishnan | March 27, 2019

The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act was signed into law by President Donald Trump on July 7, 2018, marking significant progress by the fire service, lobbyists and lawmakers to recognize the impact of occupational cancer in the fire service. This law will require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop and maintain a voluntary registry collecting data on the incidence of certain cancers in firefighters. This information will give researchers important data to understand the impacts of smoke inhalation and other occupational hazards on a firefighter’s health. The registry will also help improve operating procedures, training and equipment. CDC will partner with national fire service organizations to build the registry.

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3rd Annual Flights and Bites

By GV Krishnan | September 28, 2018

The Third Annual Flights and Bites, sponsored by the Katy Rotary Club, was held on September 28, 2018.

It was an exclusive evening with some of the top brewers in the country providing exotic beers pared with a 5-course prepared by Flemings Prime Steakhouse.  The event was held at Flemings Prime Steakhouse 788 W. Sam Houston Parkway North Suite 120 Houston TX.  Participating Brewers were Celis Brewing out of Austin, Karbach Brewing Company and No Label Brewing Company.  Along with the tasty beers and delicious food, guests had the opportunity to bid on auction items on site – great Astros memorabilia, signed bat by Alex Bregman, Kate Spade Purses, Hugo Boss Men’s Watch, Brewery parties and much more!

RFFH Open House for Second Apartment

By GV Krishnan | July 29, 2018

RFFH held an open house for its second apartment on July 29, 2018.  RFFH Volunteers, along with Rotarians from the Rotary Club University Area gathered to celebrate obtaining the second apartment.  The first tenant moved in that very evening!

Gallery Furniture Donates Furniture

By GV Krishnan | July 27, 2018

HOUSTON — Gallery Furniture and Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale announced a new partnership with Houston’s Rotary Firefighters Home (RFFH) and the Houston Fire Department during a press conference Friday.

The vision of the project is to provide temporary, fully-furnished housing to fire fighters and other firstresponders at little or no cost while they are undergoing cancer treatment.

Did you know, due to the toxins emitted in burning buildings, cancer rates in fire fighters run high? Fire fighter’s like Christian Singler from Beaumont was diagnosed with the life-threatening disease and in need of treatment from MD Anderson Cancer Center. It would cost thousands for Singlar to rent a hotel room for the duration of his treatment.

The Rotary Fire Fighters Home now has available two apartments at IMT Apartment Complex near the Med Center and offers the homes to firemen and women all over the nation in need of treatment. Apartments, all decked out with furnishings donated by gallery furniture.

“Having a list of eleven fire fighters waiting is very difficult to turn them down, to tell them that there’s not a room available in this house for them,” retired Houston Fire Captain and RFFH President Homero Ponce-Lopez said. “I had to do this several times. I’d prefer to go into a burning building to put out a fire than to tell a brother fire fighter that there’s not a room for him to get his cancer treatment.”

Not only did Mattress Mack offer to provide a living facility, but he also surprised the RFFH with a $5,000 gift card and a brand new television to furnish the apartment.

” We are proud to furnish this apartment,” McIngvale said. “We want to thank the fire fighters from around the world for all the work that they do. Whatever we can do to support them we will be here whenever they call.”

Mattress Mack has become a local hero in the city of Houston following his relief efforts during the Hurricane Harvey flooding crisis and the fire department expressed how much he meant to them and the community.

“This is an incredible work that they are doing not just for fire fighters and EMT’s but for their families,” Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena said. “I am truly appreciative of Mr. McIngvale and what he has done not only for the Rotary Fire Fighter Home but for this community. There’s a special place in heaven Mr. McIngvale for people like you who care about there community and everybody who live and work here.”

Mattress Mack teams up with HFD to provide recovery housing for fire fighters undergoing cancer treatment WATCH VIDEO

FOR CHANEL 39 COVERAGE OF THE EVENT CLICK HERE

2nd Annual Gala

By GV Krishnan | March 24, 2018

Our second annual gala was held on March 24, 2018 at the JW Marriott – Galleria.  The Keynote speaker was Dr. Anthonio Dajer.  Dr. Antonio J. Dajer was born in New York City and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He attended Harvard University and NYU Medical School, then completed a residency in family medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle.  Since 1991 he has been an attending physician in the Emergency Department at NY Downtown Hospital, now New York Presbyterian—Lower Manhattan Hospital. He was associate director from 1999 to 2005, and has been Chairman/Site Director of Emergency Medicine since 2005.  Dr. has lectured extensively on the NY Downtown Hospital response to 9/11. As the sole attending physician on duty that morning, he was uniquely positioned to take part in the largest single-hospital disaster response in American history.

Introducing Dr. Dajer was Helen Reisler, who served as our keynote speaker at the first annual gala.  Helen was the president of the Rotary Club of NYC on 9/11.

Emmy Award winner Ernie Manouse served as the MC again. Ernie has been a long-time supporter of RFFH and we were thrilled to have him MC for us.

The Rotary Fire Fighters Home Firefighter of the Year award went to a team that went above and beyond in responding to Puerto Rico and the damage caused by Hurricane Irma.  They were Captain Greg Armstrong, Engineer Operator Beau Moreno and Firefighter Ken Wright.

2nd Annual Flights and Bites

By GV Krishnan | October 14, 2017

The Second Annual Flights and Bites, sponsored by the Katy Rotary Club, was held on March 24, 2018.

It was an exclusive evening with some of the top brewers in the country providing exotic beers pared with a 5-course prepared by Flemings Prime Steakhouse – Town and Country.  The event was held in a private dining room of Flemings Prime Steakhouse – Town and Country. The event was limited to 110 guests and sold out.  50% of the net proceeds from the event were donated to RFFH.

Westwood Golf Tournament

By GV Krishnan | May 9, 2017

Rotary Fire Fighters Home was honored to be named the recipient of proceeds raised from the very first golf tournament to raise funds to support First Responders.  Under the leadership of PDG Rhonda Walls Kirby, the golf tournament was attended by Rotarians, firefighters and first responders and members of the Golf Club.  A fun time was had by all!

RFFH secures first floor apartment

By GV Krishnan | April 14, 2017

We learned that having our apartment on the second-floor created problems for our residents, because in some cases, they simply cannot manage stairs, either because they are too weak, or are in a wheelchair.  RFFH was able to negotiate a new lease for a first-floor apartment.  On April 14th, we successfully moved both our current resident and the apartment contents, with little disruption to the resident.  This was due to all the wonderful volunteers who showed up to move everything.  We succeeded in moving all the contents while our tenant was at MDACC receiving treatment.

Open House for our FIRST apartment

By GV Krishnan | November 17, 2016

On November 17, 2016 we held an open house for our very first apartment.  The beautiful apartment was furnished through the generosity of IKEA Furniture. Along with IKEA’s generous donation, all the necessary household items were donated through the generosity of RFFH Friends using the Target registry and/or donating cash or other needed items including TV’s and a washer and dryer.

We are excited to see this part of the Rotary Fire Fighters Home dream come true. Our first tenant will arrive in the next couple of weeks. We are blessed through the generosity and hard work of those that believe in our cause, to have this apartment available.

San Antonio Stair Climb

By GV Krishnan | September 11, 2016

The San Antonio 110 9/11 Memorial Climb chose the Rotary Fire Fighters Home as its recipients for its 2016 stair climb.  “The SA 110 Stair Climb is a very specific type of 9/11 memorial. There is a reason it is not a 5k, a bike ride, or any other type of event.  On September 11th over 90 different fire departments and over 30 different law enforcement agencies joined together to pay tribute to their fallen brethren of 9/11/01. This year was the SA110’s largest year of attendance yet. First Responders from all over the country gathered at the Tower Of The Americas to pay a solemn tribute of sweat for the 343 fallen firefighters, 70 fallen law enforcement officers, and 9 EMS personnel who tragically perished at ground zero.  Members of the SA110 presented a check to the Rotary Fire Fighters Home on October 15th in San Antonio.“

1st Annual Flights and Bites – Katy Rotary Club

By GV Krishnan | September 3, 2016

The Katy Rotary Club announced that 50% of its net proceeds from its first annual Flights and Bites will go to RFFH.  The inaugural event, the prequel to the annual Katy Rotary Wild West Brewfest was limited to 150 people and was a sell-out!

Attendees enjoyed beer from some of the top brewers in town along with a 5 course meal prepared by Flemings Prime Steakhouse.  The event was held in the 1902 historic Houston Firehouse #3.  Attendees sampled special cellar aged beers, which is normally very hard to find (or impossible to find) all of which complimented each course prepared by Flemings.

1st Annual Gala

By GV Krishnan | February 12, 2016

Our very first gala was held on February 12, 2016 at the Royal Sonesta Hotel.  The annual theme was “Hope Rises,” based on a Phoenix rising out of the ashes like NYC and America did after 9/11, on the hope cancer patients have when they begin treatment, on the hope people have when they are in a disaster and in need of rescuing, and of course, on our hopes to get the home built!

Our keynote speaker was Helen Reisler, President of the Rotary Club of NYC on 9/11.  Helen has a background in education, media, business, and non-profit, where she has held various high profiled positions and is often referred to as a “Woman of “Firsts.”

She was one of the first women to work her way up to the position of Vice-President in a New York City publishing/ advertising company, the first woman vice-president on the board of the Sales & Marketing Executives Club, and one of the founders of the Sales Hall of Fame.

The members of the Rotary Club of New York invited Helen to be their first woman member in 1988 and thirteen years later she the first woman president of that club in their 92-year history. It should come as no surprise that she was the first Rotary club president to face the challenge of an unprecedented terror attack on her own city in 2001.

Helen’s successful coordination of volunteer activities during the “9/11 Disaster,” during her year of club president, encouraged her 185 members to use their individual skills at “Ground Zero,” aid in the relief efforts, and send 45 first responders on vacation. She inspired contributions of $1.4 million and oversaw the efficient disbursement of the monies to the neediest. . During “9/11” she developed a special appreciation for the heroism of firefighters and continues to advocate for them.

Joined by Helen, is retired NYFD Lt. Joe Torrillo.  Joe Torrillo was a 25-year Lieutenant with the NYC Fire Dept. who is now retired on disability. He spent the first 15 years of his career in Engine Company # 10, across the street from the South Tower of the World Trade Center. While recuperating from a severe injury on New Year’s Eve of 1996 going in to 1997, Joe was assigned to convalesce in the office of fire safety education.  Eight months into this “light-duty” position, Joe was ultimately named the Director of this public-based program. In his new position, Joe would co-design a children’s state-of-the-art fire safety learning center, which opened in October, 2000.

This new venue, “The Fire Zone “, in the heart of Manhattan, was nominated and won the coveted “THEA” award at the Emmy’s in 2002. Shortly thereafter, in January of 2001, Joe worked on a project with Fisher-Price Toys to help design a new children’s “action figure”, which was part of their line of “Rescue Heroes”. This new action figure was named “Billy Blazes” and was a likeness of a NYC Firefighter, who was an addition to their other “Rescue Heroes “.

In conjunction with the Executives of the Fisher-Price Corp., Joe chose the “Fire Zone” as the location for the press conference to introduce “Billy Blazes”, and then keeping with a safety theme, ironically chose the date of September 11, 2001, because 9/11 is the Emergency phone number in New York City.

On the way to the press conference, that was set for 9 a. m., Joe was about an eighth of a mile away from the World Trade Center, when American Airlines Flight #11 struck the South Tower at 8:46 a.m. Fearing for his Firefighter brothers in Engine Co. 10 and Ladder Co. 10 across the street from the Towers, Joe diverted to the scene to render assistance.

Three minutes after donning borrowed bunker gear, at 9:03 a.m., the second jet, flew over Joe’s head and slammed in to the South Tower. With a background in Structural Engineering, Joe made an immediate assessment that everyone above the fire was doomed to death, and the buildings would collapse.

While Joe was involved in the rescue operation, the South tower fell at 9:59 a.m. Joe was buried alive with a fractured skull, broken ribs, broken arm, crushed spine and heavy internal bleeding. Shortly after being found alive in the rubble, they removed Joe on a long spine board and placed him on the deck of a boat on the Hudson River, with the expectation of getting him to a hospital.  As emergency personnel were holding his split scalp together, the North Tower fell and buried Joe alive again. He was alone in the engine room.

About 45 minutes later, Joe was once again rescued from the debris, and taken across the Hudson River, where he awoke in a hospital room at the Jersey City Trauma Center in New Jersey. Because he was wearing a borrowed set of firefighting clothing with the name Thomas McNamara, Joe was misidentified by that name, and Joe was declared missing for 3 days.   By the time the sun set on the evening of September11, 2001, Joe had miraculously survived the collapse of both Towers, but with life-long injuries.  Sadly, “Billy Blazes” would come to represent the 343 New York City Firefighters who had made the supreme sacrifice of their lives in the rescue effort.

Today Joe Torrillo travels the world as a professional speaker with a quest to make our country the “Re-United States of America”, resurrecting patriotism, trumpeting the men and women of the Armed Services, mentoring adolescents, and inspiring audiences of all sizes to embrace change and never give up on their dreams.

The MC was Emmy award winner, Ernie Manouse.  Ernie Manouse, a native of Binghamton, NY and a graduate of Loyola University Chicago, launched his broadcasting career with NBC News before producing programs at Chicago radio station WLS-AM. In 1996, Ernie joined HoustonPBS (now Houston Public Media), and as an anchor and producer, he has garnered seven Emmy Awards, five KATIE Awards, a Houston Press Club Lone Star Award, “viewer’s choice” recognition from multiple local and regional publications, and the title of “Ultimate Interviewer” from the Houston Chronicle.

His intellect, natural curiosity, and ability to help people tell their story have been hallmarks of Ernie’s many television projects. InnerVIEWS with Ernie Manouse, an Emmy-nominated and nationally broadcast interview series will enter its 15th season in 2016. His weekly program Arts InSight explores stories and issues of importance to the Houston arts lovers. And currently Manouse is in production on the fourth season of the nationally syndicated and widely successful Downton Abbey inspired talk show Manor of Speaking.

The very first Rotary Fire Fighters Home Fighter of the Year Award was presented to Steve was born and raised in Houston.  He joined the Houston Fire Department (HFD) in 1974 where he worked for almost 39 years, retiring in January of 2013.

During his career with HFD, Steve was an HFD instructor for thirty years teaching Fire Cadets, rescue classes and officer development.

Steve served as District Chief for 18 years and a Rescue Coordinator for HFD for over 15 years.

In addition to his HFD responsibilities, Chief Sparks served as a Rescue Manager for TxTF-1 for the past 19 years. He was deployed to Texas disasters like the recent Wimberley Floods, Hurricanes Rita and Ike, the Bastrop forest fire and the plant explosion in West, TX.

Steve has also responded as a TXTF-1 rescue manager to national disasters including New York after 9/11 and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

The very first gala was a great success!

We want to hear from you. Contact us!


Email us at
info@rotaryfirefightershome.org
or call us at
713-594-6305 for information pertaining to accommodations;
or 713-819-6281 for general information

Our Info

Rotary Firefighters Home
P.O.Box 541905
Houston, TX 77254
(281) 693-7162

The Rotary Fire Fighters Home appreciates the support over the years from the following corporate sponsor: