Almost seven years ago, Wilmington (DE) firefighter Brad Speakman was called to a house fire at 3:30 in the morning and was the first one on the scene. Unbeknownst to the WFD, there was a heavy amount of fire in the basement and the floor became saggy so they tried to evacuate when they realized what happened. However, the floor had a “catastrophic failure” which basically saw it collapse like pancake and fold inward. The fire took on a life of its own and blazed wildly because the doors and windows were open and the wind was whipping in all directions.
Brad fell into the basement and lost function of his arms. He was pulled out by his teammates and suffered severe burns to more than 1/3 of his body. However, he was lucky – two of his colleagues died that morning and another firefighter was in the hospital with him, but she passed away a few months later due to those burns.
Brad spent 46 days in Crozer-Chester Medical Center (PA) ICU. He said his first thought when he went into the basement was his family and to see his wife and 2 kids again he knew he had to keep that mask on. But Brad suffered no function of his hands, which were immobilized; grafted and regrafted.
Doctors thought Brad would lose his left hand and right leg below knee as his burns were almost 4th degree, meaning they got to bone. However, due to the great staff, he was able to keep all his extremities and has practically full function of everything.
Brad tried to go back to work for two years but the city doctor did not clear him and he was forced to retire. A self proclaimed “shy guy,” Brad did not like to talk to people and discussing feelings was out of his comfort zone. But this trip has shown him he can do things he did not think he was capable of like rock climbing and mountain biking. He said he’s never had – or experienced – a network like this before; a group of people who are inspirations to anyone they have ever met.