Tragic (Backdraft) Fireground Experience That Lead Into A Legacy Footprint Of Healing

On July 3, 2010 we responded to a smoke in the building call as a second-generation Minneapolis Firefighter. As we arrived on scene Engine 11 did a size up, we have smoke showing from eves will be laying a tank line for an interior attack. We (Rescue 9) arrived and my captain and I jumped off the rig started walking to front of the house to do our size it u. We donned our face masks. We had no visible fire just smoke coming from the eves of this 3 story house. Engine 11 was getting their line laid. We went to the 3rd floor to conduct a primary search and look for the seat of the fire. As soon as we got up there we still had no heat or visible fire just a haze. We worked our way into a room where we heard the fire crackling in the drywall. So we radioed to Engine 11 to bring their hose line up, we found the fire. At this point we were going to open up the wall and put the wet stuff on the red stuff and go back to the station for lunch. As soon as I breached the wall with my axe the smoldering electrical fire got a huge introduction to oxygen and the entire 3rd floor blew upon us. It was a backdraft a very rare event in the fire service like the movie in the 80s with Kurt Russell. The impact force blew me across the room and when I came to I was on fire. I was able to find a window in this infernal because a beam of sunlight shined in on me. I broke the window out with my burned hand and jumped from 3rd floor and lucky I landed on a porch that saved my life. Not only are back drafts very rare a perfect storm, but being able to get out of house with all my injuries, and survive a 3 story fall God was looking out for me that day and had a bigger plan. My captain was blown 11 feet the opposite direction. Engine 11 were blown down the stairs by force of the explosion. By the time the I regained composure and got hose line they were able to save my captain’s life. He was on fire they had to but him out. Our radio melted, along with our PPE.

I was rushed down to the hospital code 3 by ambulance where I was admitted into the burn unit with 3rd and 4th degree burns to my hands, 2nd degree to big percentage of my body face, back, upper extremities. I broke my left talus on fall, and messed knee up. Long the short of it I spent just shy of 6 weeks in a burn unit undergoing countless skin graft surgeries to save my hands. I didn’t know how I was going to get through these dressing changes. I was really struggling to want to live and move on until 2 little boys a 3 and 5-year-old were admitted into the hospital room next to me. In that moment my cries went from my inward focus me to them. The perspective (Silver Lining) I took from that moment is the 2 little guys didn’t have a choice in their injuries. I did I know the inherent risks from being a firefighter. They were living in a tent because their parents fell on hard times. The 3-year-old was playing with a lighter next thing the tent is on fire. The 5-year-old went in to save his little brother’s life. They both were badly burned 40% of their bodies. So in this moment, my cries turned to them. They were going worst pain and if they became my angels if they could do it I could. They provided me “Never Quit Mindset” not to give u and keep fighting.

The community came together to put on a fundraiser for us because they didn’t know medical prognosis. I was really struggling that no one was advocating for these 2 little boys and many others. So we took a portion $5,000 of those funds raised for us and gave it to Regions burn unit so they could send children that have been burned to a burn camp in CO. To help them be with other children that have similar burns and disfigurements on their bodies so their not made fun of. This camp experience provides healing in many ways to help can get on the road to recovery. In this moment I know God’s calling and bigger purpose for me was advocating for these children and burn survivors that had no one helping them. So I founded
that provides support for burn survivors, firefighters, first responders, in way caregivers and insurance companies are unable.

Losing my childhood dream of being a Minneapolis firefighter like my dad was actually more difficult than the injuries I sustained. Losing the brotherhood and not being able to go into burning buildings anymore is so difficult it never leaves your blood.

Firefighters For Healing work and impact has been recognized on a national scale, for greater context…

Here is more of an overview about Firefighters For Healing

Capital Campaign: FireFighters For Healing

Coming full circle after 10 years from that fire that forever changed not only my life but the entire crew. Were building a first of a kind transitional healing center in North America. It was designed after 2 of the oldest firehouses in Minneapolis.

It will look and feel like a firehouse in the interior and will be located in downtown Minneapolis, MN. This legacy footprint of healing will provide housing for burn survivors, firefighters, first responders, for any medical reason coming into the Twin Cities for medical care. They and their families can stay free of charge as long as they need medical care. Here is what that impact looks like today we provide in our apartments.

I apologize for the lack of content to try to lay this experience out in a narrative that has a punchie storyline that grabs your heart. It a very difficult experience to articulate. It’s very hard to explain God’s divine interventions and his bigger plan from an earthly perspective.

I wanted to reach out in hopes of sharing my story because with the pandemic our fundraising efforts have been halted and we have a capital gap were trying to bridge before closing in April. So I was hoping by God’s grace this experience would resonate for your podcast to help us get this capital campaign messaging out to a broader audience to help us cross this finish line strong and get our new home built for our firefighters, first responder, heroes that lay it out on the line each and every day to keep us safe. This will be a legacy footprint of healing long after we’re gone.

I will attach Sunday’s local paper on our new home.
And some photos of my backdraft to help provide additional color to the experience.

Thank you kindly for your time, consideration, your service to our country, and your inspiring podcast.

Have a blessed day!


Jake LaFerriere

Author: Jake