Arlington Citizen-Journal

Arlington firefighter helped save lives. Now a scholarship in his name could save more


As a firefighter, David Culhane spent his life saving the lives of others.

And though he lost his own life to leukemia last July, his legacy is helping save more lives.

In his honor, a new scholarship has been established at the Tarrant County College Fire Service Training Center.

Culhane served the City of Arlington for 38 years. He was its longest-tenured firefighter before retiring in April of 2017.

The scholarship is the brainchild of his wife, Deidre, who said she wanted to share her husband’s love of the fire service with others. The Arlington Fire Department is working to raise a minimum of $30,000 and is encouraging the community to make a tax-deductible donation to the scholarship fund and help educate future firefighters.

“David trained numerous firefighters. Safety was paramount, and regular training sessions were common during his shifts at the fire station,” Deidre said. “Having this scholarship in place at TCC Fire Service Training Center, an internationally recognized facility, will provide education and training to young, unsponsored candidates and prepare them for a life of firefighter service.

“If we can help ease the financial burden for even one candidate a year, that is a small price to pay for the sacrifices they are willing to make on our behalf.”

Deidre said David loved teaching others to be firefighters.

“If he were here today, I believe he would be working at the Fire Service Training Center — even if it meant as a volunteer,” she said. “Those who have trained with David will tell you that being ‘Culhane trained’ means something special. He knew he was responsible for ensuring his crew returned home safely, and he took that responsibility very seriously.”

Deidre said she and the fire department are just over a third of the way toward their goal of $30,000 raised.

David’s letters of commendation and awards go back to his early days. They include:

First Responder Crew of the Year

Firefighter of the Month

Life Saving Award for a team effort in an apartment fire

Annual Life-Saving Award from Mayor S.J. Stovall in 1980

Arlington Rotary Club Phoenix Award for the crew’s efforts that saved the life of an infant in cardiac arrest

Life Saving Awards from the Arlington Fire Department for saving patients in varying degrees of distress

Recognition for his personal sacrifice and extreme risk in the swift water rescue of three teenagers who overturned in a kayak

“And, of course, they stayed busy extinguishing fires,” Deidre sad. “I would emphasize David was one part of a team in each of these instances and would credit the crew for their quick actions and successful rescues.”

Deidre said it was only when her husband retired that she learned of the numerous commendations and life-saving awards he had received from the Arlington Fire Department.

“While he rarely spoke of his own accomplishments, he would frequently commend his crew for their life-saving efforts on everything from fighting fires, resuscitating citizens, rescuing teenagers from a flooded creek, extricating pregnant mothers in distress, or just sharing their passion for the fire service with young students,” she said. “He never wanted to be considered a hero, he just loved going to work.”

Arlington Fire Chief Don Crowson said the purpose of the scholarship is not only to honor David, but also to help provide the proper training to firefighters, to give them an opportunity to serve with the same leadership, compassion, and confidence he did.

“David was well-known for his professional leadership, dedication to service, and honesty, as well as his clever wit,” Crowson said. “His commitment to his local fire district was a great example of how to make a difference in the community we serve. He was an outstanding officer, leader, and friend.”

Deidre said David lived an “authentic life.” His leadership and wit are always part of the conversation when talking with his AFD family. He was fondly and respectfully referred to as Super Dave and Fireman Dave.

“David blessed my life in so many wonderful ways. He was my hero in all things,” she said. “His love for God and his family was evident in all he did. We had fun. We put hundreds of miles on our bicycles and hiked miles of trails together. We lived a blessed life, and I will be forever grateful for that time.”

David’s compassion and love for his community extended outside the fire department. He was involved with Meals on Wheels for many years, adopted a Carrollton neighborhood cemetery that was neglected, and he prayed daily for the staff and patients at the Pickens Cancer Center.

“I’m still in touch with families we met during his treatment,” Deidre said.

“To the young firefighter candidates, this scholarship is for those who have the innate calling to be a firefighter, the selfless, compassionate, and those with a desire to serve others. That is the legacy of David. To follow in his path through the scholarship would be such an honor,” she said.

“To the community, our firefighters are special people. They leave their families and risk their own lives to save yours. They run into blazing buildings and face life-threatening situations every day.”

Deidre also noted that cancer is now the leading cause of death for firefighters nationwide, according to the International Association of Firefighters.

“Despite these risks, young men and women are still pursuing their dream to become a firefighter,” she said.

She added that each year, there are approximately 15 unsponsored candidates who register at the TCC Fire Service Training Center with the dream of becoming a firefighter. The course is a 14-week, daytime training class, so maintaining a full-time job is difficult.

“Being able to support them through the scholarship is just a small way to thank them in advance,” she said. “They could very well be your first responder.”

David Culhane Memorial Scholarship for Firefighters

Donate at Using the drop-down menu next to gift designation, select “Please enter name of scholarship or program in the comment box below” and then enter David Culhane Memorial Scholarship in the comment box provided. Send a check, made payable to the TCC Foundation, to 1500 Houston St., Fort Worth, TX, 76102. Please note David Culhane Memorial Scholarship in the memo line of the check.

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