PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – Three of the four Peoria firefighters injured in an explosion are still in the hospital. Their care is proving to be a complicated job for doctors.
They’re treating several types of wounds all at once, including painful burns.
The four Peoria firemen are identified as:
• Capt. Paramedic Hunter Clare, who has 15 years of service with the Peoria Fire-Medical Department. He sustained a thoracic fracture, two ankle fractures, a wrist fracture, burns and cuts.
• Engineer/paramedic Justin Lopez. He has 12.5 years with the department and has the most severe injuries. He is still on a ventilator, and is suffering from a nose fracture, skull fracture, collapsed left lung, broken rib, broken leg and a sliced artery in his leg.
• Firefighter Matt Cottini has 12 years of service, has lacerations and burns to his head and jaw and burns and cuts to his left knee. He was released but readmitted for evaluation.
• Firefighter Jake Ciulla has three years’ experience. He also has burns on his body. He was discharged, but needed to be readmitted and has since been rereleased.
“It’s unusual because it’s an explosion mixed with a chemical injury mixed with traumatic injuries mixed with thermal injuries. So, that’s a lot going on all at once and then of course when all of these patients hit the hospital all at the same time it presents a challenge,” said Dr. Kevin Foster with Maricopa Integrated Health System’s Arizona Burn Center.
And at first, doctors weren’t even sure what kind of chemical they were dealing with.
It turns out the firefighters were being burned by both acid and base chemicals, likely from those exploding batteries.
“Chemical injuries are kind of special and different because the chemical continues to burn until it is removed or until it’s neutralized,” said Foster.
He says having to explain those injuries to family members and other fighters was just as complicated.
“It can be very difficult because everyone wants information up front and it’s very difficult to say for sure what we’re dealing with right now, this is what the injuries look like, this is what our plan is,” said Foster.
One thing Dr. Foster can say for sure is all four are healing and are likely to make a full recovery.
“Back on duty eventually, yes,” he said.
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