A firefighter died in a house fire & the news barely covered the story

Kyle wilson

(This column is adapted from previous STATter911.com articles on Kyle Wilson’s death.)

Ten-years-ago today, shortly after breakfast, word started coming in that a firefighter had been killed in a house fire in Prince William County, Virginia. My initial job was to try and confirm some information about the fire for our morning news broadcasts. WUSA-TV, the station where I worked, and our competitors began sending news crews to the fire scene.

This house fire occurred a little less than three weeks before the birth of STATter911.com. Even without the website, covering the fire service in the Washington, DC area was part of my beat as a TV reporter. Preliminary information was confirmed from various sources. As I finished getting dressed for work, it was obvious where I would soon be headed and what my news story would be for the day, and likely days to come. I was wrong.

I never got to the fire scene and the large majority of the reporters and TV news crews already at 15492 Marsh Overlook Drive were suddenly told by their editors and assignment desks to leave the scene of the fire. Most were sent toward the southwestern portion of Virginia, to the town of Blacksburg, as word started filtering in of a double shooting at West Ambler Johnston Hall at Virginia Tech.

The shooting had occurred about an hour after the fire was reported. About two hours later there was more gunfire on campus at Norris Hall. In the hours ahead the number of dead and wounded would climb to become the deadliest massacre by a single gunman in U.S. History.

Back at Marsh Overlook Drive, Technician I Kyle Robert Wilson was dead and for the most part there was barely a mention in the local news the entire week. As much as anyone, I understood the news business and why it was that way. Still, it’s something that has always bothered me.

My on-air role that week was in the studio reviewing Internet and social media sources of Virginia Tech news and videos. I was able to negotiate with the producers and find a few opportunities to remind people that a firefighter also had died. These brief mentions were not adequate news coverage of a line-of-duty death of a firefighter.

This is why I want to make an extra effort to ask you to remember Kyle Wilson and his family today, on the tenth anniversary of his death. It will, once again, be overshadowed by another important and tragic anniversary. But it should never diminish the sacrifice made by this young firefighter and the loss felt by his family and friends.

Thankfully, Wilson’s fellow firefighters and the citizens of Prince William County last year ensured a more lasting memory to Kyle Wilson than some news TV reports, articles and this website can offer. They lobbied hard and successfully last year to name a newly constructed school the Kyle R. Wilson Elementary School.

Kyle Wilson school

Image from Kyle R. Wilson Elementary School Facebook page.