‘This is the real deal’: Two Crete volunteer firefighters injured in wildfires
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Firefighters, many of them volunteers from rural departments, had a dangerous job on Sunday as wildfires tore through southern Lancaster county.
The Crete Volunteer Fire Department was called to help fight the fire in Hallam, but not everyone walked away unharmed.
Two volunteers with the volunteer department ended up with burns on their bodies, one of them will likely be in the hospital for some time recovering.
“I’ve been on multiple grass fires but this one this outdid all of them,” said Gene Garza, a volunteer with Crete.
Garza said the out-of-control grass fire that he helped fight Sunday was the worst he’s ever seen. While fighting the flames in Hallam, two of his co-volunteers were hurt. It’s still unclear how it all happened.
“I do know that they were caught in...front of a fire,” said Fire Chief Tod Allen. “Brad tripped over something or fell over something and fell into a fire and got pretty good burns. The fire must have rolled over him because if he fell down, and then it burnt up his back.”
Chief Allen is talking about volunteer firefighter Brad Elder, who is also a professor at Doane University. As of Monday night, he is still in the hospital with third-degree burns on 20% of his body. Allen says Elder will likely be hospitalized for at least a month, with the most severe burns on his left hand and the back of his legs, requiring skin grafting.
Another firefighter has second-degree burns to his face, but he’s already home from the hospital.
Chief Allen wasn’t at the fire but he heard the calls for help.
“As a fire chief you know, you’re listening and you’re trying to get a grasp on things,” Allen said. “And then you hear ‘mayday, injured firefighter,’ that’s one word you never want to hear, never want to hear. Yeah, I hope I never hear it again.”
Garza also heard that ‘mayday’ call and was about a mile from where the two men were hurt.
“This is the real deal,” Garza said. “This is something none of us had ever experienced before. The danger involved with this fire was just unprecedented.”
Allen said that a GoFundMe has been set up for Elder as he recovers.
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