Crete volunteer firefighter returns home after three-month hospital stay

A Crete volunteer firefighter returned home on Friday after three-month hospital stay due to injuries sustained during the Hallam wild fires.
Published: Jan. 27, 2023 at 6:31 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -Back in October, 10/11 NOW brought you the story of a volunteer firefighter who was severely burned after fighting the wild fires in Hallam. On Friday, the city of Crete welcomed him home from the hospital.

Brad Elder made his way home after nearly 90 days of being hospitalized. Crete Volunteer Fire and Rescue and Doane University came together on Friday to welcome one of their own back home.

“It was humbling today, to see everybody out there waving,” Elder said.

Elder was led back into town by a convoy of fire trucks, ambulances and police cruisers.

“We have a tradition here when one of our high school teams or university teams were doing a national championship or a state championship,” said Tod Allen, Crete volunteer fire chief. “We escort them back into town. This was a big enough deal, Brad coming home from his injury that we did the same escort.”

The lights and sirens led him through Doane University, where Elder is a biology professor, to his home that Elder hasn’t seen in three months.

“It’s a little over a quarter of a year, which is a strange thing to wrap your head around that for a quarter of a year I’ve been in bed,” Elder said.

Brad spent the first part of his recovery at CHI Elizabeth’s burn unit and spent the last two months at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital.

“I had a third-degree burns from my ankles, just above my ankles, all the way up to my beltline,” Elder said. “I had third-degree burns to my hand, but just in a couple of spots, so it’s pretty hard to see some of them, because the graphs took so well.”

Elder said he has about a year to 18-months left of recovery, but is already making strides to get back to a sense of normal.

“I’m already teaching,” Elder said. “So we’ve been online for two weeks, and then I’ll be in the classroom on Tuesday.”

As far as getting back to fighting fires, Brad said that depends on his recovery.

“If I’m not 100% physically, that crew that goes in that building is counting on me like we’re counting on everybody,” Elder said.

For now, Elder is just happy to be home.

“I should be dead,” Elder said. “And 90 days later, I walked home, I walked through my house.”

Elder said that there will be a benefit held for him at Doane University on Feb. 4 helping to raise money to cover his medical bills.