Story about firefighters

Top 8 heartwarming firefighter stories of 2020

From firefighters going the extra mile for members of their communities, to civilians paying it forward for their local fire departments, here are the most heartwarming fire service stories from this year

The fire service's dedication to serving and protecting the public has a way of bringing out the best in both its members and the communities they serve, and this is often the truest in times of adversity and hardship.

Despite the immense challenges this year has brought to fire departments across the country, the following stories show that the spirit of compassion and generosity is as alive as ever, with firefighters going above and beyond for those they serve and community members paying it forward with acts of kindness and generosity toward their local fire departments. 

Here are the top eight heartwarming firefighter stories from 2020:

1. Firefighter-paramedic donates part of liver to retired police officer after seeing Facebook post

Suffering from liver failure due to stones in his pancreas, retired Houston Police Officer Bubba Laws, 69, was told he would only have weeks to live without a transplant. Described by his daughter Kim Pendergraft as "very proud" and not wanting to burden anyone, Laws decided he had "already accepted death" after none of his family members turned out to be a match.

However, Pendergraft took to Facebook in search of more potential donors, and eventually found one in Kerrville Firefighter-Paramedic Blair Casey, who turned out to be a match. After a successful transplant surgery, Laws said he was "flimflammed" to find out his daughter had gone out of her way to find him a donor, and grateful that Casey stepped up to give him "a new lease on life." 

Read the full story. 


Kerrville firefighter becomes our first living liver donor in 2020 to save retired officer he had never met... until now! It all began when Blair and his wife Michelle saw a friend’s Facebook post asking for prayers and help finding a living donor for her father who was dying from end-stage liver disease. Without knowing him, both Blair and Michelle came to his rescue and underwent evaluations. Both were a match but Blair was a perfect fit! About 8 years ago Blair’s grandfather, who helped raise him, passed away. Blair did not know until after he was approved for donation that his soon to be recipient’s nickname was Bubba, just like his grandpa. At that point, Blair knew he was doing something great. “I would do anything to get him back for a year, 2, 3... a day,” Blair said. “He reminds me a lot of my grandpa. This was meant to be. To extend his life and give him a good quality of life from here on out.” Bubba has three amazing daughters who never left his side. His wife Pam said, “I’ve never lied to my husband so keeping this secret was very hard. He would have never let anyone inconvenience their life to donate to him. He was stubborn and the girls saw their daddy getting sicker. He was in and out of the hospital, admitted 16 times, in a coma and unresponsive. After meeting Dr. Cigarroa, I knew in my heart when he said to Bubba ‘we are going to save you’ that it was true. Thank you is not enough!” “I’ve never met anyone as selfless with much of a giving heart,” Bubba said about Blair. Blair is a new member of their family and a brother his daughters had always wanted! #AmericaStrong #LivingLiverDonor #FirstResponder #OurHero

Posted by University Transplant Center on Wednesday, January 22, 2020

2. Fla. first responders buy groceries for woman struggling to pay medical bills 

In February, Hernando County firefighters were called to the house of a woman who had recently been in a car accident, after a Hernando County deputy performed a welfare check and learned that she hadn't been able to buy food due to her medical bills. After evaluating her,  the first responders went the extra mile by driving to a local grocery store to buy her food that fit within her dietary restrictions. Since then, the woman's home health care provider made arrangements for long-term services to ensure she could get the groceries she needed. 

Read the full story.  

3. First responders in pink gear surprise girl, 10, diagnosed with leukemia

Emilee Derrer, the daughter of Mt. Carroll (Illinois) Fire Department Capt. Eric Derrer and Savanna EMT Erin Foster, received a special surprise in early March when a pink ambulance and fire truck appeared in front of her house, along with dozens of first responders, some dressed in pink gear, lining up to give her a hug.

A total of 23 emergency vehicles participated in the celebration to show support for the 10-year-old during her battle with leukemia. The event was organized by the Pink Heals Sauk Valley Chapter with the help of Chapter President Brian Tribley, who is also a firefighter.

Read the full story. 


Emilee is ten years old and battling Leukemia. We gathered with several area fire departments, and surprised her with lots of hugs and love! Savanna, IL 3-1-20

Posted by Pink Heals Sauk Valley, IL Chapter on Monday, March 2, 2020


Fire departments bring birthday joy to kids stuck at home

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many children looking forward to their birthdays had to forego seeing their friends and cancel celebrations as families did their part to flatten the curve. In response, fire departments across the country hosted socially distanced birthday parades so kids wouldn't have to miss out on their special day. 

Read the full story.


Social Distancing Birthday Visit Update! Thanks to everyone that's invited us to be a part of their child's birthday...

Posted by LeClaire Fire Department on Thursday, April 2, 2020

5. Anonymous donor leaves boxes of ppe on north Carolina fire engine

In May, High Point firefighters received a heartwarming donation from an anonymous good Samaritan, who left eight packages of N95 respirators on their fire engine while they were inside a store buying groceries for their shift. The eight packages, left without a note, contained a total of 160 respirators that fire officials said would have cost the department at least $500. Although the donor didn't seek any recognition, the department expressed their gratitude on Facebook, saying "such a wonderful act should not go without thanks." 

Read the full story. 


Today the HPFD was blessed by an anonymous soul. Someone left 8 boxes of 3M N95 masks with Engine 10 while the crew was...

Posted by High Point Fire Department on Monday, May 4, 2020

6. Added Force: Baby Yoda a boost on Western wildfire lines

When 5-year-old Carver and his grandmother Sasha Tinning delivered a Baby Yoda toy to a donation center for firefighters, along with a note reading, "Here is a friend for you in case you get lonely," they probably didn't expect that their simple gesture would become a viral sensation. But the cute character's power to spread joy to firefighters across Oregon and beyond made him an unlikely mascot for those on the front lines of this year's devastating wildfires, with one fire official calling him "the 21st-century Smokey the Bear. " Baby Yoda's travels from fire camp to fire camp are shared on the Facebook page "Baby Yoda fights fires." 

Read the full story. 


THE CHILD! This is the way! Thank you everyone this has been so fun to be apart of and watch the joy he brings.

Posted by Baby yoda fights fires on Wednesday, September 23, 2020

7. Firefighters use ladder to reunite mom, daughter at nursing home

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shirl Carmine was unable to visit her mother Shirley Taylor, a resident at Alice B. Tawes Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, for several months. Carmine said she had thought about bringing a tall ladder to the nursing home in order to reach the window of her mother's second-floor room. However, Carmine and her daughter Jessica came up with a better idea when they happened to pass by a Crisfield Volunteer Fire Department ladder truck filling up at a gas station in July.

Carmine met Assistant Chief Engineer Matt Tomlin's in the gas station shop and asked if they could use their ladder to bring her up to the window of her mother's room. After getting approval from Fire Chief Frankie Pruitt, the volunteer crew obliged her request, allowing her to see her mother face-to-face again for the first time in four months.  

"To see the smile on these ladies' faces and see life come back to my Grandma's eyes, it is absolutely beautiful," Jessica Carmine wrote on Facebook. 

Read the full story. 

I can not even begin to put into words how much I appreciate the Crisfield Volunteer Fire Department! They made...

Posted by Jess Carmine on Sunday, July 5, 2020


8. Firefighters help replace kids' baseball cards destroyed in California's largest wildfire

CAL FIRE/Fresno County Fire went to bat for kids affected by the Creek Fire by launching a campaign to replace their baseball card collections that were destroyed in the blaze. Through the "Step Up To The Plate" campaign, which began in October, firefighters encouraged supporters to send in their cards to be donated to three youth baseball players who lost their homes, including Reese Osterberg, 9, who the department called "one of the best baseball players in the league." In November, the department gave an update on Facebook, saying, "Not only have we received many baseball cards but also many heartfelt notes to the kids."

Read the full story.


We challenged you to “Step Up To The Plate” and donate baseball cards to Reese and her friends that have been impacted...

Posted by CAL FIRE/Fresno County Fire on Monday, November 2, 2020


About the author

Laura French is a former editorial assistant for FireRescue1 and EMS1, responsible for curating breaking news and other stories that impact first responders. In a prior role at Forensic Magazine, French was able to combine her interests in journalism, forensics and criminology. French has a bachelor’s degree in communications/journalism with a minor in criminology from Ramapo College in New Jersey.

The Greatest Firefighter Stories Never Told

Firefighters know that no fire is predictable, no day on the job is ordinary. What they don’t know for sure is what heartache or danger they will face when they rush out on a call. Will they discover a severely burned child curled up in the corner of a charred bedroom fend off flaming debris from a collapsing ceiling fall through a burning floor? Will they save a life or recover a body? Will they get hugs of thanks from grateful survivors or give hugs of condolences to victims’ relatives?

After they don 90 pounds of gear and equipment, including flame-resistant turnout coats, heavy steel-soled boots and breathing packs, will they be running up the stairs of a burning skyscraper or running for their lives from a collapsing building?

To some people, it might seem foolhardy to charge into the flames to rescue someone you never saw before and may never see again. It’s not that firefighters don’t think about the danger. They’re human and don’t want to die, just like everyone else. But unlike most everyone else, they do what has to be done despite their fears.

That’s why, as you’ll see in this book, firefighter Joseph Clerici crawled through a blazing apartment, desperately groping in the dense smoke for a child who was presumed dead… firefighter John Traphagen leaped into a smoke-filled elevator shaft of a burning high-rise and shinnied down a cable to a red-hot elevator in a valiant rescue attempt… firefighter Bill Shea jumped 15 feet down into a pit of fire without a plan of escape because to do nothing meant certain death for a trapped victim.

Gripping acts of heroism can happen anywhere at any time — a hotel in Chicago, a harbor in New York, a runway near Miami, a high-rise in Dallas. The stories featured here are representative of the amazing accounts of firefighter valor that aren’t well known, have been long forgotten, or received media coverage locally only. In most cases, these stories are based on personal interviews with the firefighters and witnesses or first-hand reports in fire department archives.

In this book, you’ll read about astonishing rescues spurred by fast thinking and quick improvising by firefighters who would never have considered doing what they did if lives weren’t at stake. For instance, Matt Moseley dangled from a helicopter cable over a raging inferno to pluck a man off a melting crane. Charles Kamin tossed terrified children out of a burning second-story classroom as it reached its flashpoint because there was no time to carry them down the ladder.

You’ll also read about firefighters who put their lives at risk simply by doing what’s right, like New York firemen Jay Jonas and his men. Following orders to evacuate immediately, they were running down the stairs of the North Tower of the World Trade Center when they came upon an exhausted elderly woman on the 20th floor. They refused to abandon her even though they knew they probably wouldn’t get out of the building in time. They were still with her when the North Tower collapsed. (Fortunately, all survived because they stayed with her.)

The day-to-day work of firefighters may never make the six o’clock news or the front page, earn a medal or even a thank you. But you can bet the firehouse those dedicated men and women will be back on the job tomorrow, ready to plunge through a wall of flames when necessary, simply because that’s who they are and that’s what they do.

Purchase The Greatest Firefighter Stores Never Told from:

Lt. Charles Kamin slammed the 26-foot ladder against the wall by the second-floor window, scurried up the rungs and looked in on a horrifying sight. About 20 students were jammed against the window…
 Then Kamin noticed something that made his blood run cold. The students’ white shirts were changing color, going from white to tan, then growing darker like marshmallows over a campfire. The blistering heat was starting to burn their clothing. 
 Seconds, I have just seconds, Kamin thought. The burning clothes told him that in no time the room was going to reach a flash point in which everything— furniture, books, papers and children— would go up in one great white flame.
 In desperation, he did something that would have seemed unthinkable just minutes earlier… He kept seizing children and flinging them out the window. In Kamin’s mind, at least they had a chance of surviving a 25-foot plunge; they had no chance of surviving in the burning classroom.

A story about a man who, like all firefighters, is at war every minute - Vestnik Online Edition

From time immemorial, selfless work of firefighters has been valued and respected in Russia. The history of fire fighting has many examples of community service. Fires remain the most frequent and most terrible man-made disaster in terms of their consequences.

Fires most often occur where carelessness and negligence are allowed. And when trouble comes, firefighters, people of a courageous profession, are the first to fight the fire element. They take risks every minute, working at heights and in smoky, gassed rooms, always ready for a possible collapse of structures and explosions. As V. Gilyarovsky wrote about the people of this courageous profession, “every firefighter is a hero, all his life in the war, risking his head every minute.” Not everyone is capable of such a job.

Lieutenant Colonel Andrey Grab Lev , which we want to talk about, dreamed of the profession of a firefighter since childhood. After graduating from high school, he entered the Ivanovo branch of the Academy of the State Fire Service of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia. A 17-year-old boy, without betraying his childhood dream, ended up in the barracks in tarpaulin boots. In 2003, immediately after graduating from an educational institution, fire safety technician A.E. Grablev was appointed to the first fire department as the head of the guard. For 16 years he has been serving his cause.

He associates success and promotion with the support and attention of senior comrades. Experienced firefighters worked shoulder to shoulder with Andrei Evgenievich. The newly-made chief of the guard earned the respect of his colleagues with the ability to lead his subordinates, the correct conduct of reconnaissance and the organization of fire fighting.

In 2007, he received higher professional education at the Academy of the State Fire Service of the Ministry of the Russian Federation for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Disaster Relief in Moscow, specializing in Fire Safety Engineer, senior lieutenant of the internal service A.E. Grablev was appointed deputy head of PCh No. 1. He coped with this position perfectly well, the senior lieutenant of the internal service had a leading vein.

In June 2015, Andrey Evgenievich graduated from the Federal State Budgetary Educational Institution of Higher Professional Education "Academy of the State Fire Service of the Ministry of the Russian Federation for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Disaster Relief". A year later, A. E. Grablev was appointed head of the specialized fire and rescue unit No. 1 for extinguishing large fires of the Federal Fire Service of the State Fire Service FGKU "1 OFPS for the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug - Yugra", the only one in the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug - Yugra with such a status.

Andrei Evgenievich is a competent specialist, demanding and principled both to the personnel and to his own leader. Simultaneously with exactingness shows care. Personally conducts classes and controls the level of professional training of employees and workers of the unit.

Combat and physical training of personnel remained a priority for him. He pays great attention to the continuation and enhancement of the division's traditions, the improvement of working conditions and the functioning of the division.

According to Andrei Evgenievich, over the years of service in the fire department, the most significant and memorable combat work for him in the aftermath of large fires and emergencies was extinguishing the fire and rescuing people from a two-story residential building in 2011, for which he was awarded a medal Ministry of the Russian Federation for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Disaster Relief "For Courage in a Fire". At the time of arrival, thick black smoke was coming out of the window openings and the entrance, cutting off all the main evacuation routes for the residents. People could not leave the apartments on their own and asked for help from the windows, there was a family in one of the apartments. Andrei Evgenievich, together with his colleague, entered the apartment. Firefighters put rescue devices on children, gave their breathing apparatus to adults, took people to a safe place, and then returned to the building and continued to rescue other victims. 18 people were saved from that fire. Andrei Evgenievich perceives this award as the most honorable.

For significant merits in the field of fire safety, personal courage shown in extinguishing fires, competent leadership of personnel in the aftermath of emergency situations Grablev in 2012 was listed on the Board of Honor "Pride of the village".

In addition to performing his main official duties, Andrei Evgenievich takes an active part in the social and sports life of the Surgut local fire and rescue garrison and Bely Yar, where he was a multiple winner in individual and team championships.

My own story about A.E. Grablev, I would like to conclude it with the words: “The profession of a firefighter is chosen according to the call of the soul and heart. A real leader knows that it is impossible to send a firefighter into the fire, he can be led along, and this fiery element can only be dealt with shoulder to shoulder.”

April 30, 2019 marks the 370th anniversary of the Russian fire department.

K. ATANAEVA PHOTO by the author

A story about the work of firefighters: one of many stories

Radiant light streamed through the bright green saturated crowns of the trees, descending onto the golden, ripe grass. It spilled over the lawns, and midges frolicked in the sunlight, looking like hundreds of small diamonds, somehow miraculously lost the gravity of the Earth. Here and there swifts flew by like small fighters, keeping in battle order. Above all this idyllic beauty, the azure lake of the sky, transparent and bottomless, froze. And only a trickle of smoke rising from the dry, fluffy moss, rising up and spreading into the thick of the forest, disturbed the peace of the inhabitants of this reserved world. A piece of glass, an abandoned bottle, according to the laws of physics, focused the sunlight so that the moss heated up, sparkled and the wind blew it into a small fire.

The smallest sparks, resembling small stars, flew towards the forest, sticking to leaves, dry stumps, and tree bark. And now, after a few minutes, a small harmless fire grabbed the lower branches of the trees, crawled up the dry needles of perennial pines. And the wind seemed to be waiting for this and blew with such force that the flame no longer paid attention to the distance. The fire moved through the crowns of trees at such a speed that it seemed that nothing could stop it. The forest came to life. Animals and birds left their burrows and nests in a panic. They ran, flew and crawled away, saving their cubs and themselves from smoke and hot fire . ..

At nine o'clock in the morning, as agreed last night, Nikolay Somov, sipping his fifth cigarette of Golden Java, was already waiting for his friends at the kiosk with the well-known name Zhelezyaka in the neighborhood. A large, golden cross shone in the rays of the rising sun on his hairy chest. About a quarter of an hour had passed since he arrived, and a huge backpack over his shoulders had already rubbed his neck pretty badly. Finally, he put it on the ground, but at the same moment behind him sounded the familiar signal of Ivan Beloruky's blue Zhiguli.

- Hello, Catfish! Are you still dry? We're not going to work - let's untie your chumodan!

– Hello, hello! Listen, Vano, I'm fine, but you're driving?! Although when it stopped you, Somov laughed, taking out a bottle of cold beer, in addition to which, as it turned out, there was still so much of this drink in the backpack that one could drink at least a dozen healthy men.

- Let's not be stingy, it's about twenty minutes to go here at most, I found such a clearing in the forest, you will open your whole mouth!

- Come on, let's meet! - Somov opened a couple of bottles and the "cheerful" drink disappeared into the throats of friends.

The backpack fell into the back seat, the doors slammed and the car disappeared around the corner with a screech. The young firefighter Sergey Smeshnov came to the service in a special mood, all ironed, in a new uniform and with two pies on the occasion of his birthday. The commander of the department, Oleg Bespalov, who acted as the head of the guard, almost retired Valery Mikhailovich, and Lech's driver, met him somewhat wary in this form:

– Seryoga, why are you dressed up like that? I don't want to leave today! Don't you know the omens, have you even stretched out your uniform once?

- Mikhalych, yes, these are all prejudices - Smeshnov smiled

- Well, well .. - Bespalov, a healthy kid of 38 years old, shook his head, it seemed that he had no neck and a head immediately grows from his shoulders .. - okay, cut pies and put teapot, happy birthday!

Meanwhile, the friends have already arrived at their place of rest. As Belorukov had promised, Nikolai was delighted with the place his friend found, hidden in an old, reserved forest, where no man seemed to have set foot. They quickly collected old, dry branches, having eaten bony and blueberries along the way, kindled a fire and, to the sounds of a beat-up guitar, sang songs and drank a cold drink from glass bottles. After the fourth bottle, Ivan got up, took the container lying near the fire, and went to the mountain ash, which was standing nearby. He inserted the bottles, neck down, into the protruding branches.

- What are you doing, Vano? - Somov asked.

- You'll see now - laughed, a rather drunk and clearly inadequate friend, took out a gas pistol from the glove compartment, firing steel balls, and began to shoot at bottles.

Friends had fun. A lot of time passed, and the alcohol was running out .. Ivan, barely hobbled to the Zhiguli, started the engine and, blowing clouds of smoke and wagging between the trees, drove for a new portion of the drink.

The sun had changed its position a long time ago and was brightly illuminating the resting place for friends... Somov went into the shade, and barely leaning against the trunk of a huge birch, he quickly fell into a sound sleep. ..

..The forest came to life. The noise and uproar, the voices of crazy animals and birds, the crackling of burning wood and acrid smoke woke Somov, he tried to get up, but his legs did not obey him, it was too late, there had been no clean air in his lungs for several minutes. Somov once again stretched himself upward with all his strength and lost consciousness.

The fire station rang. The substitute radiotelephonist, whose duties were performed by the naturally young Seryoga Smeshnov, quickly picked up the phone.

– Fire brigade..what is burning..where? Your ALARM!!

The ringing of the bell at the fire station sounded like an alarming wave through the village. The firefighters ran into the garage, and literally flew into combat clothes and, fastening their fire belts and helmets on the move, ran out the gate, where a tanker truck, filled with water and ready to perform the functions assigned to it, was already waiting for them, sparkling with red sides, despite its years. The firefighters hid inside the cabin, the last door slammed shut and, buzzing with a siren and flashing beacons, the fire engine rushed towards the forest, over which black-gray smoke was already swirling and flames, looking through it, flew away somewhere into the sky.

– Oleg, look, it’s necessary to drive in such a state, but he can’t stand on his feet!

– Yes, you definitely don’t need to issue a license to such a second time!

Approaching the fire site, Bespalov asked the dispatcher:

- "Grove" "Dam" at the reception!

- "Grove" at the reception!

- I see the glow, the area is waterless! PCH-1 help needed! How did you understand?

- Got it! PCH-1 help needed! Additional information has arrived! There is a man at the scene of the fire! How understood!

– Got you! There's a man at the scene of the fire! Let's go scouting! In the direction of the wind in the forest belt there is an artificial gap! The first barrel is filed to meet the movement of fire! How did you understand?

- Got it!

- Mikhalych, let's turn around with Lyokha, the main line has 4 branches, a fork, two fifty-first and the trunk "Kurs"! Your task is not to let the fire go through the gap! Report changes in the situation!

- Oleg, not for the first time, everything will be at the highest level! - Mikhalych smiled.

Bespalov, throwing a breathing apparatus over his shoulders, walked across the hot ground towards a clearing where two friends had recently been having fun. Coals of burnt branches fell from the trees, ash flew everywhere, sparks, unburned pine needles, tree trunks smoked and fire licked the charred bark..

– Is anyone alive?! Hey! Is there anybody here! shouted Oleg.

And then he saw something shining near a huge, blackened birch, standing at nine o'clock from him, twenty meters away. With a quick step, jumping over fallen thick, dying branches, Bespalov went towards the birch.

- Man, how are you?! Wake up! Do you hear?! What are you? How so?! - He put two fingers on Somov's neck, - So! There is a pulse ... Come on, brother, breathe! Oleg put a rescue device on Somov's head and opened a compressed air tank to ventilate the lungs. Suddenly a thick branch fell off the birch with a crack and fell on Oleg's head...

Bespalov opened his eyes... A young nurse was sitting next to him, poking ammonia into his nose.

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