In Texas, Houston and Dallas often compete symbolically for which city is the best. But when it comes to emergencies like last week’s disastrous motel fire, those differences are replaced by a common feeling of grief for those who died in the line of duty.

Dallas Fire Department Lt. Nick Ravelo, for instance, was among hundreds of firefighters who sacrificed days off to fill Houston stations during a memorial service Wednesday.

“We understand when they hurt and bleed; we all feel that pain,” Ravelo said as he watched the televised memorial at Station 68, where fallen firefighters Anne Sullivan and Robert Garner worked. “It’s the least we can do to let them mourn with their family without having to worry.”

Like Ravelo, many of the volunteers from elsewhere first worked shifts at their own departments before arriving in Houston in the early hours of Wednesday. The Dallas Fire Fighters Association even chartered two buses to bring volunteers to Houston. Many firefighters also drove hundreds of miles to offer their services.

They came from Dallas, San Antonio, Fort Worth and communities closer to home like Galveston. The fill-ins familiarized themselves with gear and tools but said the job typically is the same, no matter where the firehouse.

“I could pay a better tribute by helping firefighters go celebrate the lives of their own,” said Ravelo, 41, who’s been a firefighter almost a dozen years. Ravelo and the others were wearing black T-shirts and polo shirts with “Dallas Fire and Rescue” on the back.

“We wanted to do anything we could to help.”

Some volunteers will work here through the weekend. Others, like Dallas Fire Capt. Danny Windle, said they planned to be back working at their own stations sooner.

“We’re here to free up a bunch of guys who normally would have been working,” he said. “We’re all in solidarity.”