MANCHESTER, NH – Fire Captain Steve DesRuisseaux nearly lost his life last November when he was one of the first to run into ain Manchester, New Hampshire to rescue several fire victims on the second floor.
After seven months of recovery, he returned to the job he calls his second family this week. “It’s been a humbling experience and I’m anxious to get back,” he tells WBZ-TV.
Conditions quickly changed inside as he became engulfed in fire from the first floor coming up and the second floor coming out. It forced him to do a “window bail” when the unthinkable happened, the strap of his air pack got caught on the top of the rescue ladder.
“I was at the point where I was starting to realize I might not get out of that situation,” he said. “I could feel what was going on and see what was going on with my mask starting to melt.”
He was experiencing over 1,000 degrees of heat and with his mask liquifying there were ten seconds left to get air. “The panic and fear is inevitable but I told myself I don’t want to go like this,” he said.
It was then fellow firefighter Joshua Charpentier made a decision he’s never made before, to dump the ladder the captain was trapped on forcing DesRuisseaux to fall to the ground.
“It wasn’t even a thought at all, it was a friend, a brother firefighter who was burning head to toe and he needed to get down,” said Charpentier.
“When I felt the ladder falling I came back and said I’ve got a shot, I remember thinking that as my body was falling down,” said DesRuisseaux.
He suffered second and third degree burns over one third of his body that required six surgeries. Fellow firefighters supported him every step of the way as he finally left the hospital.
It will likely be the end of July before Captain DesRuisseaux finally gets back on Engine 11, but it’s the job he loves and it will be another milestone.
“There’s a reason why I’m still here, there’s a purpose,” he said. The 24-year veteran says that purpose is to pay it forward now to fellow firefighters.
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