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Injured Buffalo firefighter is eager to get back to work and save lives

Posted at 6:27 PM, Mar 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-14 18:27:35-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — This week marks two months since a house fire that left Eric Whitehead with severe burns to his hands.

On Thursday, he shared that he's still getting treatment for those injuries, but he's eager to get back to work.

The Buffalo Fire Department responded to a house fire on Butler Avenue on January tenth. As they worked to put out the flames, Whitehead was struck in the head with debris.

He was disoriented and got separated from the group.

He then took off his gloves and tried to hit his "man down" button, but could not.

"I just relied on my training, had to stay calm because I knew my brothers were close," he said.

That's when his fellow firefighters rushed to help him, and saved his life.

" I remember that moment," said Whitehead. "It was a feeling that's hard to explain, and you know, it's almost like hitting the lotto. Because I knew they were coming, and when they got there I was overjoyed and, you know, I think about it everyday."

Whitehead suffered third degree burns to his hands and arms.

He spent a month in rehab and recovery at AT ECMC's burn unit. Three other firefighters also suffered burns battling the fire.

"Any time a member is injured, and in this case a severe injury, we take a look at ourselves obviously," said Commissioner William Renaldo. "We do a self assessment and we're working diligently."

Renaldo said as a result of this incident a safety committee has been formed.

"We're looking at all aspects of this incident going forward to make sure not only that it doesn't happen again, but to actually limit the extend of the injuries to the members," he said.

Whitehead has been home since mid-February, and he's continuing with his rehab three days a week at ECMC.

It's still unclear just when he'll be able to rejoin his colleagues at engine 21.