Our last story is the “Grady Bunch” – a trio of firefighters, and friends, from LaGrange, Georgia who were involved in a fire five years ago. Josh Williams, now 41, was part of the first engine on the scene of a residential structure fire with apparently four people inside (2 adults, 2 children). Jordan Avera, then 21 and freshly out of the academy, and his colleague and Josh’s longtime friend, Jon Williamson, were part of the second on scene.
While the three men were inside, the exterior of the structure caught on fire. The house was wrapped in tar paper, which was popular on older mill houses used in the 1930s and 1940s, however, it was extremely flammable. Conditions inside the structure deteriorated rapidly causing a smoke explosion. The tar melted on the hose, cutting off the water supply to put out the fire and leaving them no way out.
Jordan described the situation as surreal, everything turned orange. Jon knew that Josh had the hose and could hear water, not understanding it was a busted hose instead of water to use to put out the fire. Eventually, both Josh and Jon called a mayday.
“The worst part was I thought Jordan was gone. I had no idea where he was. It was terrifying,” said Jon. Somehow Jordan and Jon found each other and a window A/C unit which was screwed in with deck screws and would not move. Someone on the outside saw movement and helped them out; Jon said he had no idea Josh was alive until he got outside the house.
While all three got out, it was not without serious injury. Josh was airlifted to Augusta’s Grady Memorial and spent 41 days in the burn unit with 3rd degree burns over more than 1/3 of his body, including some 4th degree burns (burns to the bone).
“Life was different after the burn unit. I did physical and occupational therapy for four months and lost over 50 pounds. My grip strength was just 14 lbs., it should be more than 100 higher. I was eating 7,000 calories a day just to keep the weight on.”
Meanwhile, Jon spent more than a month in Grady with 15% of his body burned including 4th degree in some instances. He had 25 surgeries for skin grafts, revisions and laser treatments, while Jordan had second and third degree burns on his torso and arms.
Josh agreed, “the incident was the tip of the iceberg. You go through a challenging time mentally and physically, not just for the next few years, but the rest of your life.”
Thankfully they had each other. “While this was an awful situation, especially just starting on the job, we were all together and did group therapy which helped put the pieces back together. We did individual therapy and group and we all live close by,” said Jordan. “Jon and I would do runs, and our families got close, which helped us get through everything.”
All three agreed having each other helped and so did this trip. They all felt and understood the firefighter brotherhood is something they all cherish, but has been elevated with Adaptive. Jordan said, “this has been motivating, we are so lucky,” and Josh agreed, “the camaraderie is like nothing I have ever experienced, it has helped so much.”
Jon noted that, “you hear these stories – people lost so much in this job, whether it be people or their injuries. Some of them climbed a mountain with one arm! This entire experience was life changing, it taught me to be a much kinder person and live in the moment.”