This is not the story of the West I-10 Fire Department.
This is the story of a man, a husband, a friend and of a dedicated firefighter.
Mr. Colin Mackay was a husband, a father, a loyal friend a dedicated family man and a dedicated firefighter that we tragically lost in December 2009. Colin Mackay was survived by his wife and two sons and their families as well as a family of firefighters in the West I-10 Fire Department.
In June 2012, a flagpole was dedicated in his memory at the fire station (Station 2) where he served the community for many years. Station 2 is located at 851 Dominion just south of Kingsland Blvd and near James E. Taylor High School and was originally staffed in May 1980. This was the only station to not have a flag pole in place.
Colin served the department and the community with over 30 years of service and there was not a year that went by that he didn’t request a flagpole to be constructed at the station. Because of the way the station was developed over many years and in several variations, it was difficult to place the pole. Several members including Lou Fabricant and Capt. Scott Strait tried to work with Colin in the proper placement of the pole. The locations that were selected would never work due to being too near the bay doors, lack of physical property or interference with overhead power lines.
In the fall of 2011 and after Mr. Mackay’s passing, Capt. Strait along with a few others familiar with Colin’s request took it upon themselves to figure this situation out and make it right for their friend and their brother. The solution that came out of these brainstorming sessions was to place a pole through the center of a rock and have the rock inscribed in memoriam. After getting department approvals, this team of brothers set about honoring their fallen friend. Today, sitting proudly in front of Station 2 in a nondescript neighborhood is their solute to Mr. Colin Mackay.
According to Chief Mark Holloway, “Colin demonstrated wise, sound judgment and was not a loud talker”, kind of like that rock memorializing him in front of his station, Station 2.
After a medical condition took Colin from being able to actively fight fires (he was very passionate in this pursuit) he became the longtime chauffeur for Engine 2. In talking with Chief Holloway, he quickly added that “Colin took being a volunteer to heart and that he expected everyone around him to share that same drive and passion”. In addition, the Chief went on to add that “Colin set an example that if you grow up and mature in life, you had the ability to give back and that is what he did, he gave back”.
In addition to talking with Chief Holloway, we were able to speak with Mr. Lou Fabricant, Captain Scott Strait, and Assistant Chief Sam Henderson as well as with Colin’s widow, Mrs. Maggie Mackay. There were many words that were used to describe Colin, although some of those could not be printed, the common word used throughout our discussion was RESPECT. When asked for one word that best described Colin Chief Holloway said, “Respect! He gave respect, you may not have been best friends, be he respected you in giving your time and trying to help yours and his community”.
Equally sounded by Mr. Fabricant (also a founding member of the department with both Colin and Maggie Mackay) was RESPECT and Pride in Ownership. Lou went on to say “Colin was an inspiration to people, he didn’t mince words and he stood for the principals he believed in and in many instances, was able to change the minds of many board members as well as other members of the department through his passion to be the best”. When asked what inspired him to create this memorial to Colin, Captain Strait responded with “He did. Over Colin’s 30 years of service, he had always wanted a flag for Station 2, but we couldn’t figure out the perfect spot. We looked at every possible location and really just couldn’t figure it out”. Colin Mackay now has his flag for his station.
Family matters the most. In the fire service, when you join, in addition to your traditional family, you gain a whole new family that understands, like no others, what it means to be a member of the fire service from the heat, the long hours as well as other climate issues that can arise on a fire or vehicle accident scene. Colin had someone at home that understood all of what it meant to be in the fire service just as he did in his loving wife of 39 years, Mrs. Maggie Mackay.
When asked for her thoughts on the flag and what it meant to her and her family, Maggie indicated that “It was a total shock to me and that she was happy they did it”. As one of the founding families of West I-10 Fire Department, I asked Maggie how they came about in joining. In her quick-witted way, she quickly shot back that “My husband joined the department because I had joined”. Maggie is from England and Colin from Edinburgh, Scotland and as such, she went on to say that it was a fun rivalry between them to be the best. Maggie comes from a heritage of volunteering as her father was a firefighter in Nottinghamshire, England. Neither of their two sons has entered into the fire service….yet.
In the early development of the fire department, it was not uncommon to find a fire scene fully staffed with women. As the husbands typically went off to work during the day, someone had to ride the engines to put out the fires or tend to the victims at a motor vehicle incident (MVI). Maggie was one of those women that found them being thrust from a mothering role (when she was not working as a nurse) into a firefighting role at the sound of the “tones” coming from the radios.
Maggie currently holds the title of Accountability Officer for West I-10 Fire Department and due to her nursing career; Maggie administers the various vaccinations for the entire department as well as is a member of the Rehab Unit. The Rehab Unit is a support unit for the entire fire department that will go out to a fire or MVI to assist the EMS staff in monitoring the firefighters and help keep them from “falling out” due to heat exhaustion or fatigue. As Maggie stated, “I don’t like my guys to be out there on their own” so she continues to support them through the Rehab Team.
It is evident in talking with Maggie that she loves her husband very much, but she does have one beef with him. Prior to Colin’s death, they were to have celebrated their 40th year of marriage and everyone kept telling them both that he needed to give her a big anniversary party. Sadly, Colin passed away on a business trip before they could celebrate that milestone together. In a fitting statement about Colin, Maggie said: “Colin expected everyone to pull their own weight and give 100% of their available time, even if it was only 1 day per week”. She went on to say, “I was lucky that I married a nice guy, a very nice guy with a great sense of humor and I really miss that”.
Colin Mackay was a rock in not only the fire department and this community but in his family and is very much missed by all. According to Maggie, Colin was a firm believer in President Kennedy’s famous speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country”. He, along with countless others have formed the backbone of what is today one of the top fire departments within the greater Houston Area. His family and West I-10 Fire Department should be proud of being able to memorialize him with such a simple gesture like a flagpole.
Colin Mackay, February 18, 1948- December 11, 2009.