San Benito Fire Chief Watkins dies at 67

SAN BENITO — San Benito Fire Chief Danny Watkins died Tuesday of complications weeks after contracting COVID-19, officials said.

Watkins, 67, who contracted the coronavirus last month, died in a Houston hospital after a weeks-long battle.

“Chief Watkins was unable to get into a Harlingen-area hospital,” city spokesman David Favila said. “His wife then drove him to a hospital in the west Houston area. Weeks later, the chief was then transferred from that hospital to another one in southwest Houston where he died.”

Watkins had served as the city’s fire chief since August 2019.

“Chief Watkins was a complete professional and a friend to us all,” City Manager Manuel De La Rosa stated. “This is not only a terrible loss to the city’s fire department and all those who had the honor of working with him here at the city but also a terrible loss to the entire community.”

Mayor Rick Guerra, a retired Harlingen firefighter, said Watkins was working to help develop the department.

“He had good ideas. He was very knowledgeable — to be a fire chief takes a lot,” Guerra said. “The (firefighters) worked well with him and he worked well with them. Our deepest sympathies go to his family.”

Before taking the job, Watkins had built a 34-year career with the Houston Fire Department, climbing the ranks from firefighter to engineer then taking over as captain before serving as a district chief.

A native of Bellville, Texas, he is survived by his wife Debbie and two adult sons.