Beloved Wichita firefighter dies unexpectedly

Firefighter Collis Grisby has died at the age of 53.
Firefighter Collis Grisby has died at the age of 53. Courtesy photo

Hearts were heavy across the Wichita firefighter community on Wednesday as news of the death of one of their own began to settle in.

Collis Grisby, a graduate of Northwest High School and a longtime member of the Wichita Fire Department, died unexpectedly this week, according to the department.

According to several of his colleagues, Grisby, 53, was not only a fearless and selfless firefighter, he was also one of the most popular people in the department.

“He was always a welcoming person and he always had a smile on his face,” said Stuart Bevis, a battalion chief with the department. “I never heard a bad word about him. He will certainly be missed.”

At Franklin’s Barber & Beauty Shop on North Hillside on Wednesday, owner Troy Franklin reminisced about Grisby, who had been a customer at the shop for about two decades.

Franklin is also a member of the fire department.

“He was just in here last week,” Franklin said. “Everybody in here knew him. We’re all pretty shook up about it. He had to have been one of the best-liked firefighters on the department.”

Grisby often came into the shop, Franklin said, with his son T.J. Grisby’s wife, Appel, Franklin added, died while on a family vacation during the summer of 2015.

“When he came in, we would usually talk about his son,” Franklin said. “He was a family man. He was a good firefighter, too.”

Capt. Tyler Nolan of the fire department said he was one of Grisby’s best friends in the department. The pair both went to Northwest High and both began their firefighting careers in Wichita in 1993, Nolan said.

“I can’t think of one bad thing he ever said about anyone,” Nolan said. “We’re getting through it, but it’s tough. If you needed a pick-me-up, Collis was your man. As a firefighter, he’d go through a door or a wall for you.

“He was just a super guy. He put God and family first, and I know he’s with his savior right now, so that gives us a little bit of comfort.”

Numerous messages and well-wishes could be found Wednesday on Grisby’s Facebook page, including one from a colleague who said Grisby was the “most respected firefighter” he has ever known.

Franklin said he wasn’t aware of any serious health issues that Grisby, who was based at Wichita Firehouse 18 on the city’s northeast side, may have been dealing with. He said Grisby was at home Tuesday when he began to feel ill.