Backdraft burns Thibodaux firefighter on Christmas Day, Louisiana, US; PPE saved his life
Two firefighters stepped into a backdraft on Christmas day in Louisiana. The St John Volunteer Fire Department was called to a home with smoke coming from behind a fireplace. Two firefighters went to investigate the attic and when they entered it, a backdraft occurred as oxygen reached a smouldering fire inside. One firefighter suffered smoke inhalation. Firefighter Bobby Rodrigue, however, suffered severe burns on his hands, which were exposed.
Bobby Rodrigue immediately responded to a call about smoke coming from a home, mostly likely from behind a fireplace. Fire Chief Jeremy Babin says Rodrigue and another fireman went to re-check the attic. “Two firemen had went upstairs and that’s when the back draft occurred,” Chief Babin said.
Chief Babin says protective gear saved Rodrigue’s life. His hands, which were exposed were severely burned. “That fire had probably been smouldering for a while and so the perfect storm happened and when Bobby opened the door and it got that oxygen, immediately just exploded,” Rodrigue said.
Both firefighters were taken to Thibodaux Regional. Rodrigue was eventually flown to University Hospital in New Orleans for surgery. “Thankfully he saved all of his fingers,” Rodrigue said. Rodrigue says doctors used skin from her brother’s thigh to repair his hands. He had a second surgery Tuesday morning. “I think the hardest thing for him, and would be any man, is he can’t do anything for himself,” Rodrigue said.
Chief Babin has never experienced a back draft but says it’s one of many dangers firefighters face every day but face them anyway. “Whether the chief, assistant chief, captains, lieutenants, firefighters, we’re all here just to serve the community,” Chief Babin said.
The other firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation and released from the hospital. As Rodrigue recovers, his family has started a GoFundMe account to help with medical expenses.
A cause of the fire is being investigated by the State Fire Marshal’s office.