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After The Fire – Kirsten’s Story – Guest Post

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Please welcome our first ever, guest blogger, Kirsten Olson!  I know you will find her story as inspiring as I did.  Feel free to check out their website at 241 Ink Ministries & Productions This is Kirsten’s story about a day her firefighter husband was caught in a fire.  In her own words:

Growing, growing, what now? THAT should be my theme right now! My meager married life with 3 children was going as it should. We had a growing small business.Three terrific boys; All under the age of 5. I stayed at home. It was good,God-centered in rural America.


I had a pretty routine day.But today we decided to wash the fire trucks with our boys. My husband was a volunteer firefighter. An unusually hot day in early April 2005. For North Dakota, 85 degrees and very windy and very, very dry is NOT the norm. Washing trucks with Daddy was a very exciting thing to do. The boys were wound up and ready to get wet! I ended up taking the baby the 2 blocks home to take a nap.The other two would come home with daddy later.

A few hours of washing ended up not the way any of us expected. A fire call. It was to a grass fire several miles out of town. Two men jumped in trucks after sending the boys home to mom. My boys and I were cleaning the kitchen and beginning to think about what to make for supper that night. We knew that Dad would be really hungry after working so hard at the fire.


I got a phone call. The Fire Chief was saying there was an accident and  that my husband was injured. Just a broken leg was all I heard. And that he was okay. A sheriff’s deputy would come get me in 10 minutes. I knew I needed to think logically and quickly. Call pastor. Call in-laws. Get kids safe and don’t let them know how scared I really am.

My pastor and his wife came immediately and I left my boys in their hands. What I didn’t know is that the fire had grown to an uncontrollable mess. The last numbers were around 3500 acres! It jumped roads, burned fence posts, trees, lots of pasture and 3 firemen. The main highway had been overcome by smoke, making it impassable.

My first (and hopefully last) ride in a squad car was from my house directly to the nearest emergency room about 30 miles away. I do remember the lights. No siren. A lot of radio traffic that I now know the meaning. I made phone calls and informed the right people what I knew. Which wasn’t very much.

This is what had happened. My husband had been with 2 other men in his truck. Basically a big pickup truck with a platform to stand on as they sprayed the fire.  Their truck got overtaken by flames. An engine does not run without oxygen. Fire eats up all the oxygen in its path.  So, these three men got caught with a stalled vehicle in 35 foot flames. 1500 degree heat.  Where do you go. In trying to escape, my husband got his left boot stuck in a crack of the platform. In getting stuck, he fell off the truck. As he fell, his right leg broke in 9 places. And the left foot that was now exposed to the flames was burned. As he looked for the way to escape, he realized that the only way out was through the flames. On the other side was safety.  There were 2 firefighters that finally saw and heard him. They came and dragged him to safety. All after he ran on his badly broken leg.

What saved his life that day was this: he had decided to practice wearing his air mask. They don’t normally need those big bulky tanks on grass fires. He felt the need to get more comfortable wearing his that day.  His lungs would have never survived the 1500 degree heat.

 

I arrived at the emergency room in Bismarck, ND. The place was crawling with emergency personnel. Now I know that word travels very fast when a fellow emergency worker is hurt on the job. The Fire Chaplain immediately met me as I walked in the door. I remember being taken aback at all that was happening. Before I saw my husband, I realized that he was not in the worst shape. His driver had taken the brunt of the fire right in his face and arms. He was being flown to a burn unit out of state. I hugged his wife and kept on going.

Later, my husband asked to pray with his wife before they left in the helicopter.

I think my faith grew about 2000 percent that night. I was able to see him in the trauma room as they worked on getting him stable for surgery. He had broken his right leg in 9 places horizontally and had split the bones vertically. Then his burns. That was the worst part. I even hate thinking about it now after 4 years. Burned flesh is not a very nice thing to smell. He had 3rd degree burns on his entire left foot.  He had 3rd degree burns around his wrists where his bunker coat had inched up above his gloves. There were many other 2nd degree steam burns from his sweat boiling. The things you learn.

He had surgery that lasted 4 hours. The orthopedic doctor had to put his leg together and take it all apart to get it done right. It was the longest 4 hours I’d ever waited. Good friends stayed with me for the night at the hospital. Waiting and praying.

Things were really rough.Burn debridements twice a day for weeks. You can study up on that if you want too. Not a nice thing at all. My husband stayed in the hospital for 33 days initially. He lost about 60 pounds. He went home with both legs incapacitated.Many weeks of therapy. Many weeks of not knowing what we were going to do. No work. No money made. We got support from literally thousands of people. We were blessed. Not just by Christians either. God used many people to take care of us.We lost our business. He didn’t work for 13 months. But God was faithful. He had many surgeries to keep repairing the broken leg. Infections, pin removal, ankle fusion, blood clots…the list goes on.

I am amazed at how much I have grown in the last 4 years. I now know that God is the giver of life. He can also take it in an instant. How fast our lives changed. How much we have grown. We have another child. A daughter after 3 sons. Her middle name is Grace. God’s grace is sufficient in times of need. I grow because of God’s grace. He loves us enough to give us the grace to continue, day after day.

My husband, Geremy, is now walking on both feet. He is now a full time firefighter with the State of North Dakota. It’s in his blood now! He is now in charge of training firefighters how to stay safe in the line of duty. Unless you know his story, you would never know he is literally a walking miracle.

I wrote all this down about 2 years ago. There have been some awesome things happening now.  Both Geremy and I are stepping out to tell our story. A story of hope. A story of survival. We know that we are called to share God’s hope with others. Geremy is a ND State Fire Prevention Specialist full time, and he is also an interim pastor position at a church in Minot, ND.

God is so good!

Kirsten

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